CHATTANOOGA, TN(WDEF-TV) The newly named O’Neal Gymnasium is to honor a man who has dedicated 35 years of service to youth and families in Chattanooga.
Johnny O'Neal has had a major impact on the Chattanooga community.
Lurone Jennings of the Chattanooga Youth and Family Services Department is a friend of O’Neal and sees what he has accomplished.
"No matter what Johnny is going through during the course of a day, he's always finding a positive spin on it and a smile,” Jennings said. “To help thing young people he mentors, teachers, and coaches to see life brighter and better."
It is that positive attitude is why the First Centenary United Methodist Church names this gym after O’Neal. They wanted to honor this local legend while he was still living.
O'Neal was filled with emotions.
“This is really exciting, actually it's a little overwhelming, but I'm enjoying it right now,” O’Neal said.
The ceremony brought back many memories for O’Neal because he did grow up apart of the Inner-City Ministries. He wants to continue to be a living role model.
"I'm hoping that the kids have looked at me and saw that I have don't it the right way,” O’Neal said. “They will try to reciprocate it."
Many of his students came to say thanks for being there as a friend, mentor, and even a father figure.
Ward Nelson, member of First-Centenary, also gives his praise by saying Johnny has meant more to this church than anyone can imagine, and he hopes one thing.
“I hope he feels as young as he looks, because we would like for him to keep doing this for about another 25 years,” said Nelson.
O’Neal said he has no plans on retiring anytime soon.