News

Published Friday, November 1, 2019 6:00 pm

Guardians of Our Galaxy-Meet the Main Event Honorees!

Marsha Penner

Marsha Penner’s JCC journey began at the Dallas JCC as a child where she attended swimming lessons. Upon moving to San Antonio and having children of her own, Marsha’s activity continued at the JCC on Rampart. The Penner boys grew up playing soccer, basketball, and tennis at the J as well as attending summer camp, taking swim lessons, and participating on Swim team. Over the years Marsha has spread her time immersed in JCC programming including early childhood programs, family holiday programs, Hands on Sukkot and Chanukah, theater, tennis, fitness, BBYO, JCC Maccabi Games, driver’s education, and the gift shop. 

And now Marsha’s children, Mitchell and Max, along with Marsha’s daughter-in-law Karly, are also involved at the JCC. In describing her JCC story, Marsha says, “I’m spending more time here now that my son and daughter-in-law have chosen to begin their son’s education here. It is wonderful to see how comfortable my grandson feels not only in the classroom but roaming the halls and playing in the gym. Our JCC is truly a place that’s L’dor V’dor: from generation to generation!”

Marsha has served on the JCC Board of Directors for many years. She co-chaired the Main Event in 2010, and received the Charninsky Leader of the Year Award in 2011.

Rick Byrd

Rick’s JCC story began during the winter of 1984, when Rick and his wife Leslie took a ballroom dancing class at the JCC on Rampart Drive in preparation for their wedding! Several years had passed and during the summer of 1997, Rick lost the ability to walk due to a rare, painful and disabling metabolic bone disease and now must use a wheelchair to get around.   One day, while watching Rick’s son Jordan play in a juniors tennis tournament at McFarlin Tennis Center, Rick met Karen Mannheimer, the JCC’s tennis director at that time. Rick had recently been introduced to Wheelchair tennis and as it turned out, not only did Karen have experience conducting wheelchair tennis clinics, she had also taught the sport to America’s then second ranked men’s wheelchair tennis player.

Wheelchair tennis and Judaism were converging right before my eyes!” remarked Rick who then joined group tennis clinics at the JCC and by the end of 2003, became a volunteer tennis instructor at the JCC.  He often remarks, “I feel like the JCC is my second home, especially while on the tennis courts.”

Rick joined the JCC Board of Directors in 2004, was awarded the Weldon C. Place Award for Sports & Fitness achievement in 2005, and continues to serve as volunteer wheelchair tennis pro at the J.

Allan Smith

Allan Smith, a San Antonio native, attended JCC summer camp as a child in the 1960's at the location on Rampart and even had his first overnight campout in the back of JCC! Allan has many fond memories of JCC summer camp including learning to play chess and playing dodge ball.  Allan’s late father, Zavell, (“Buddy”) Smith was a JCC board member, and Allan’s late mother, Marian Smith, also enjoyed attending many events at the JCC, especially the arts and cultural programming organized by Gloria Seitzman, of blessed memory. Besides summer camp, Allan participated in the JCC basketball league, the Jewish Book Fair, and often attends the JCC annual fundraiser, Main Event.

Allan boasts “Wow. We are so fortunate to have such a beautiful space as the home of the Jewish community.”

Allan received the Charlie Pearl Volunteer of the Year award in 2004, and continues to serve as the JCC’s “official” volunteer photographer, which he has done for the better part of the last decade.


This year’s Main Event theme, Guardians of OUR Galaxy, is truly tailor made for these three individuals. While each has had a unique JCC story, for so many years, they have collectively helped to champion, fortify, and preserve the JCC and its mission to strengthen individual and family life…to Live Up! And for this, we are truly grateful to have them in our orbit!

Rick, Marsha and Allan. Thank you for your continuous, unwavering support! We look forward to recognizing and celebrating you all at the Main Event!