In 1988, the Butte Civic Center was the site of a hero’s welcoming.
A large crowd turned out as Butte Olympian Dave Silk returned home from the Winter Games in Calgary. The crowd waited and waited until, finally, the big garage door opened on the east end of the building.
A firetruck came through the door, and it drove Silk, an alternate on the U.S. Olympic Speedskating team in 1984 and a competitor in 1988, around the arena for a victory lap.
Butte had a bona fide hero and a role model in Silk, and old and young alike showed up to get a good look at him.
From a young age, Dave clearly had the talent to be a great skater, back when speedskating was a huge deal in the Mining City, too. His work ethic made him world class.
I could not tell you for sure if anybody spoke that night. I just remember that we were all excited to see Silk in person once again after watching him compete on television.
Thirty years later, the Civic Center was again the scene of a hero’s welcome last week. This time, though, we had a collection of hometown heroes under the same roof.
Three Butte legends — Colt Anderson, Tim Montana and Rob O’Neill — were all in the house at the same time. Anderson and Montana graduated from Butte High, while O’Neill is a Butte Central grad.
Anderson, the nine-year NFL veteran, brought the other two — among others — to town for the Dream Big Montana Event.
Not only did the youth of Butte — and many from out of town — get to see these extraordinary gentlemen, they got to interact with them. They got to see that they are regular guys who did incredible things because of their dedication.
A town full of young boys and girls in need of a good role model, got autographs and motivational messages from a host of inspirational characters who are known around the nation.
Montana is the former Tim Pasquizno. He grew up in a trailer without electricity, so he had to learn how to play his guitar by candlelight.
Now, Montana hangs with the likes Kid Rock and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. He also writes and records with those men.
To cap the event on Friday night, Montana played a cold concert at the Original Mine Yard. The crowd was small, but Tim and his band put on a show like they were playing in a sold-out Madison Square Garden.
O’Neill is a best-selling author and motivational speaker. He, of course, is known for being part of the Navy SEAL Team Six raid that took out terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden in 2011.
O’Neil fired the shots to kill America’s biggest villain since Adolf Hitler.
Jaison Carriger would have been an NFL player if he wasn’t injured in college. He played at Utah State and the University of Montana following his stellar career at Butte High. He himself is kind of a big deal who helped out with the football skills camp.
At the Tim Montana concert, Carriger got to meet and talk to O’Neill for the first time. You would have thought Carriger just shook hands with Mickey Mantle, and Rob gets that every day.
When signing autographs on the book of cards handed out to all the boys and girls, O’Neill sent the youth with a message.
“Never quit,” he wrote on each card.
That is a motto also followed by Anderson, who went from walk-on player to All-American at the University of Montana. After going undrafted in April 2009, the former Butte High Bulldog played nine seasons for the Vikings, Eagles, Colts and Bills.
Right now, he is a man without a team, but he is still delivering for the kids in Butte and beyond.
Anderson is the man responsible for bringing O’Neill and Montana to town last weekend. He and his wife, Keelie, started the Colt Anderson Dream Big Foundation recently, and last week’s event shows that the non-profit organization is more than just paying lip service.
The three-day event included a gala, a skills camp for kids, a family fun day at the Civic Center and a concert by one of the best performers you will ever see live.
Former Montana Grizzly and St. Louis/Los Angeles Ram Chase Reynolds, a legend from down the road in Drummond, was there along former Grizzly and current San Francisco 49er Brock Coyle.
NFL offensive linemen Conor McDermott of the Bills and Ryan Jensen of the Buccaneers are were also there. So was Maggie Voisin, an Olympic skier from Whitefish.
Jensen recently left the Ravens to sign a four-year $42-million deal with the Bucs. Of that, $22 million is guaranteed.
Still, Jensen blended in like just one of the guys — although he was much bigger than everyone but McDermott — at all the events.
That was part of the deal. Anderson wanted the boys and girls to see that NFL players, country music stars and Olympians are just regular men and women.
He wanted to show the kids that they, too, can dream big to become whatever they want. That is a great message to send to the kids because too many of them feel they were born behind the 8 ball.
Sure, Jensen is 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds. He was born with a bunch a natural talent and size, and most kids will never come close to playing center at the level Jensen does.
Anderson is different story. He is not nearly as big and fast as the NFL would like to see out of a safety and special teams player. He got by so long on hard work and dedication.
O’Neill hardly knew how to swim when he signed up for the Navy after a girl broke his heart.
Dedication and a desire to never quit sent him to Osama bin Laden’s bed room, one of many high-profile missions O’Neill took part in.
Montana was born with next to nothing. He dedicated himself to an instrument that any boy or girl can learn how to play, and that is leading him to some really big things.
Thrown in motorcross star Keith Sayers, who was featured at the gala, former Major League Baseball player Rob Johnson, who was not the best player on his American Legion team, Olympians Brad and Bryon Wilson, and former All-Big Sky player Lexie Nelson, and Butte is full of hardworking role models for our youth to look up to.
They are not just sports role models. They are life role models.
Anderson wants to make sure kids are paying attention to these people, and hundreds of kids clearly did.
If your son our daughter missed the event, don’t worry.
The Dream Big Montana Event was the first of many things the Andersons have planned. Whether he plays another down of football or not, Colt Anderson is going to make sure our kids role models to give them hope for their big dreams.
He will make sure bona fide hero sightings are a common occurrence.
— Bill Foley, who did not sign a single autograph at the Dream Big Montana Event, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74