At the Mayor’s Thanksgiving Prayer Breakfast on Friday, unity and connecting to community were the overriding themes.
The annual breakfast held in early November is coordinated by the Mayor’s Office to bring city and elected officials, religious, school and business leaders and the community together for a faith-based event.
“This is the most unprepared I’ve ever been for a prayer breakfast,” Mayor David Amrhein said. “I called (Scott Devillier) and asked if I could borrow the school district’s theme, Zachary Connected, for this morning’s event.”
The mayor then asked the community to keep his wife and her family in prayers over the recent death of her parents, Cherry and Jerry Boudreaux.
He explained the theme, Zachary Connected, formed in September after the school district learned about Rachel’s Challenge and the story of Rachel Scott, the first teen killed in the 1999 Columbine school shootings.
Scott kept a diary of her life, not unlike Anne Frank, to whom Scott has been compared, and wrote about saving the world one small act of kindness at a time, the mayor said.
Scott wrote: “I have a theory that if one person will go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”
Rachel’s Challenge is based on Scott’s writings and carries on her legacy of reaching out to those who were different and picked on — those who were bullied.
The school district accepted Scott’s challenge by starting its own chain reaction of kindness in an effort to connect businesses, community and schools, according to zacharyconnected.org.
Two guests at Friday’s breakfast then shared personal stories tying in with Zachary Connected’s communitywide kindness initiative.
Music was provided by Michelle Willis, 13, of Zachary, a home-schooled singer-songwriter.
“I can relate to Rachel Scott and have always thought I could make a difference, too,” Willis said. “I was bullied and as a result hoped I could inspire others through my music.”
Willis performed her song “Can’t Rain Forever” about encouraging others “not to give up or give in.”
Another guest who tied in with Zachary Connected was guest speaker Beth Torina, LSU’s head softball coach, who is heading into her fourth season.
Torina shared her journey of returning the Lady Tigers to national prominence in 2012, her inaugural year as coach.
At the time, the new coach said she outwardly projected to the world that she was LSU’s right choice, not second choice, but inwardly wondered if she was capable.
“We had eight seniors, all very talented, who were pulling in different directions and who had never won a championship,” Torina said. “I wanted to give these girls something they could be proud of, something they could hang their hat on before they left.”
The softball coach explained the squad that year had earned only 13 home runs so far.
“To put it into perspective, last year’s team had 65,” Torina said.
“I knew we had to reinvent ourselves, so I went back to the drawing board and focused on what we could do, rather than what we could not do. We had to use what (talents) God had given us,” Torina said.
Her job of uniting a group of 18- to 22-year-old players was no small task, but Torina said she knew it had to be done.
“We understood that it was a great moment for us and we needed to rise up or be beaten,” she said.
Each season the squad has a different theme and that year it became the Power of One, one team, one goal, one unit, explained Torina.
“We tried to keep in mind we all had one goal, to put the LS over the U, and the goal was to win,” she said.
The LSU coach then read aloud Philippians 2:2: “Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
Torina said her team became only the third since the current regional/super regional format was adopted to knock off two seeded teams — Texas A&M (8) and Missouri (9) — on the road to Oklahoma City.
The Lady Tigers advanced to the Women’s College World Series and defeated South Florida, 1-0, in the first round on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly.
Although Torina’s team lost to Arizona State 6-0 in the second round, it didn’t matter, she said.
“It was a full transformation, one unranked team had beaten two ranked teams, and in the end, I had proved I was worthy,” Torina said. “The players were yelling, screaming, hugging, and nothing else mattered. We had arrived together as one team, one goal, one unit ... as the power of one.”
LSU’s journey to softball’s biggest stage, the Women’s College World Series, was the program’s third overall appearance and first since 2004, according to LSUsports.net.
The mayor’s prayer breakfast also included performances by Zachary High’s choir and jazz band, a presentation and retiring of colors by the ZHS ROTC and bible readings by students Logan Thompson and Genesis Scott.
“My hope is that we remember this year and what this prayer breakfast was all about,” Amrhein said. “One act of kindness and becoming one. When you become one, no telling what you can achieve.”