Playa del Rey resident and community leader Morris “Morrey” Plotkin will be honored as the Westchester Family YMCA’s 2010 Hero of the Year at the third annual Kids Need Heroes Luncheon Thursday, February 11th.
Rafer Johnson, Olympic decathlon gold medalist and co-founder of the Special Olympics in California, will be the special guest speaker at the luncheon, scheduled at 11:30 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza LAX.
The YMCA holds the Kids Needs Heroes Luncheon to recognize individuals who have made a difference in the local community.
Plotkin has been involved with the Westchester Family YMCA for over 50 years and has served on the Westchester Family YMCA Board of Managers for more than 35 years. He served as president of the Westchester Chamber of Commerce (now the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce) and, in that role, began to lay the groundwork for what is now known as the Flight Path Learning Center and Museum at the airport.
A former honorary mayor of Westchester and past recipient of the Westchester Rotary Club’s Citizen of the Year Award, Plotkin was also recognized by the Fritz B. Burns Foundation in 2006 with its Outstanding Community Service and Citizenship Award.
YMCA officials say that Johnson is another man whose actions and deeds exemplify heroism both on and off the field. He won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games and was the final torch carrier at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
A 1959 graduate of UCLA, Johnson also played basketball for legendary Coach John Wooden’s teams in 1958-59, and was elected student body president as a senior. At the 1960 Olympics, Johnson became the first African-American to carry the U.S. flag in an Olympic opening ceremony.
He later became involved in politics with the 1968 presidential campaign of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Through his connection to the Kennedy family, Johnson helped expand the Special Olympics movement by co-founding the California Special Olympics in 1969.