Hundreds celebrate Perez, raise money for memorial scholarship

Diabetes may have taken Paul Perez’s life late last month, but his legacy lives on in the hearts and lives of Coon Rapids’ young athletes.

Jess Bergman Tank paints a flaming softball on 11-year-old Savannah Johnson’s cheek during the inaugural Paul Perez Memorial Picnic at Riverview Park in Coon Rapids July 20.

Jess Bergman Tank paints a flaming softball on 11-year-old Savannah Johnson’s cheek during the inaugural Paul Perez Memorial Picnic at Riverview Park in Coon Rapids July 20.Photo by Bill Jones

Perez, 59, devoted countless hours and boundless energy to the Coon Rapids Athletic Association and Coon Rapids National Little League. As coach, official and administrator for more than four decades Perez left on imprint on thousands of young athletes’ lives. It’s an imprint CRAA and Coon Rapids National Little League staff are determined to leave on future athletes as well.

“Paul was the type of guy who would stop a game to coach a kid, to teach a kid or to tie a kid’s shoes. He made sure kids told their mothers they love her. He was all about life lessons and he knew how to get the best out of the kids,” said CRAA president Ted Schmolke.

In memory of Perez, and in a determined effort to extend his legacy, the athletic association and the Little League partnered to host the July 20 Paul Perez Memorial Picnic at Coon Rapids National Little League fields at Riverview Park.

With root beer floats, walking tacos, a dunk tank and bounce house – even “an old man home run derby” – the picnic was staged as a fun get together and was attended by more than 300 people, Schmolke said.

Perez’s family also came out in force, celebrating Paul’s life, sharing stories and reliving cherished memories of moments, days and years spent together with him.

The picnic also served as fund-raiser for the Paul Perez Scholarship Memorial Fund and more than $2,000 was raised for that purpose.

Paul Perez Scholarships will be awarded to a Coon Rapids High School graduating male and female who participated in football, basketball or baseball at the youth levels in Coon Rapids.

Schmolke said organizers plan to make the Paul Perez Memorial Picnic an annual event.

“It was a wonderful event, an absolutely wonderful event and we look forward to planning next year’s picnic,” Schmolke said.

Sue Austreng is at
sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

up arrow