Kevin Douglas – City of Mount Gambier Senior Citizen of the Year

Kevin Douglas – City of Mount Gambier Senior Citizen of the Year

City of Mount Gambier Citizen of the Year

Active Citizenship Award

Young Citizen of the Year

Community Event of the Year

Kevin Douglas has been a well-known personality in the Mount Gambier community for more than 50 years.

Affectionately known as KD to many, the 72-year-old once fronted local classrooms as a teacher, coached local football teams and has been behind the microphone as master of ceremonies at many sporting events and presentations in addition to volunteering his time extensively throughout the community.

Born in the Riverland and raised in Adelaide, Kevin moved to Mount Gambier in 1974 for his first teaching post at Grant High School.

His career in education spanned 45 years as a Physical Education (PE), Mathematics and Geography teacher throughout the region, including Allendale East Area School, Millicent High School, Mount Gambier High School and the district office before he retired in 2016.

“It’s not a job that can be taken lightly, because you really are putting down a foundation for a lot of kids,” Kevin said.

Grant High School Deputy Principal David Thomson attributed the introduction of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) program at the school to Kevin.

“His teaching methods were innovative and engaging, designing and delivering the work-related studies program which gave young people disengaged from traditional education a pathway to work,” Mr Thomson said.

Kevin is proud of his legacy within the local education sector and was honoured in 2007 when Grant High School dedicated an area of the school as the Carol Lock/Kevin Douglas quadrangle in recognition of his service.

“That was huge to me,” he said.

“Even just recently I went to get the bus from the school for the Mount Gambier Community Christmas Lunch and they said, ‘yeah, it’s down by KD’s shed’. I said, ‘you still call it that?’ I have not been there for 20 something years, but they still call it that. That hits home a bit that you have made an impact at the school.”

Sport has played a huge role in Kevin’s life, whether it be playing a game of footy for South, West Gambier, Kongorong or Western Border Interleague, or coaching.

“Right from being a youth, my mum Thelma ensured my brother and I played a lot of sport, and I believe it is so important,” he said.

“It has so much more to offer than potentially getting a kick on Adelaide Oval – the responsibility, the organisation, the punctuality, all those social skills that are so important, the teamwork, the friendship, they are all the benefits of playing sport.”

Over several decades, Kevin also volunteered his time to chair panels for local tribunal boards, including soccer, basketball, baseball, softball and football.

After hosting a sports show on local radio station 5SE for the best part of a decade in the 1990s, Kevin was in demand as a master of ceremonies around the region for various events.

That included presentations and special events on trotting evenings at the Mount Gambier Harness Club, race days at the Mount Gambier Greyhound Club, sports nights and charity fundraisers.

“I loved every minute of it. Out at the trots if they had a presentation, I’d grab the microphone and do it right. I am not a professional at it, but I am someone who took some pride in doing things right,” he said.

In recent years, Kevin established a ‘Catch for Cash’ fundraising initiative at the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club to raise money for local charitable organisations.

“When COVID hit, I thought there has got to be a way I can see my greyhound run, so I got a handler’s licence to be able to go and catch and box,” he said.

“Normally handlers get a bit of pocket money, $5 to $10 for going around to catch the dog and walk it back. I did not need that, so we started a ‘catch for cash’ jar for donations to raise money for local charities and I think we have raised about $28,000 now.”

In 2021, Kevin was presented with an Outstanding Service to Industry Award at the Greyhound Racing SA annual awards for his fundraising work and the assistance he provided to the local Quaran Care group.

“I really enjoyed working with the group to make them feel comfortable enough to come and visit the club, join in, and enjoy watching the races on a weekly basis,” he said.

“I assisted one young lad to become a licensed handler and it was a real joy to do so.”

Kevin enjoys using his skills to guide local volunteer organisations to success, including the Mount Gambier Community Christmas Lunch event.

From 2020 to 2023 Kevin led the event, which grew to 170 attendees under his guidance and passion for the cause to ensure that everyone involved enjoyed Christmas lunch together, no matter their circumstances.

“Kevin engaged with the whole community to gain support for the event. He has put a structure in place to ensure that it can now continue to run for many years,” Mount Gambier Community Christmas Lunch event organiser Vicki Clark said.

Kevin discovered Sunset Kitchen as a result of his work with the Community Christmas Lunch.

“I would go along and ask people if they would like to attend the Christmas lunch, and then I realised what they did at Sunset Kitchen. I thought that it was fantastic, not making judgements, just providing underprivileged people of all ages with a meal on a Monday and Wednesday night,” he said.

He now volunteers at the kitchen regularly and is grateful for the contribution and support of generous local businesses throughout Mount Gambier.

“If there is a genuine need, I have not found a business, corporation, or individual in Mount Gambier who will say no, they will do what they can.”

Kevin has been forced to reduce some of his volunteer work and activities in recent years due to ongoing health issues.

He has been battling prostate cancer for the past five years and travels to Adelaide every three weeks for treatment.

“I stay with my son Bradley and my daughter Carmen and my three grandkids Noah, Eli and Xavier. It’s having those people at the end of your bed that is most important,” he said.

He has had 39 radiotherapy sessions and 41 chemotherapy sessions.

While he says the side effects can take a toll, he remains as active as possible within the community.

“I remember my oncologist said once, your positive approach and the amount of activity you do is better than any medication that I can give you,” he said.

“His words are spot on, and I think there is enough research to show that cancer can respond to keeping active. You do not give up without a fight.”

When asked why he is so community minded, Kevin is solemn.

In 2010, at almost 60, he decided to research his father Les’ untimely death.

He died in 1956 at the age of 29 in a car accident in the Riverland where the family lived.

Kevin was just four years old at the time, and his older brother Gary was six.

“I looked up all the old microfilms, all the old newspapers in Waikerie and Blanchetown at the Adelaide Library because mum never talked about it (the accident), she was traumatised,” Kevin said.

“I found out that my dad was secretary of the Waikerie Football Club. Not a good footballer, but a great social person, so one out of two. It also had written in there what the Waikerie community did to fundraise and support mum, Gary and myself when he died and it has never, ever left me.

“The Waikerie community held a fundraiser and raised an unbelievable amount of money for the family between 1956 to 1960 which greatly assisted us.”

Kevin said the goodwill displayed during that difficult time for his family astounded him and he wanted to continue to give back to others where he could, both locally and in the Riverland.

“My brother and I went back to the Waikerie Football Club and gave a donation to their junior program,” he said.

“That’s my why, you have got to do what you can to help other people in need.”

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