The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 12:12 am

A sweet honor for Surack

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

Chuck Surack, the founder, president and CEO of Fort Wayne-based Sweetwater Sound, will receive the Mad Anthonys’ Red Coat as Hoosier Celebrity of the Year.

"It’s a total honor, and I tried to tell them ‘no’ multiple times and they wouldn’t take ‘no’ as an answer," said Surack, who will receive the annual award Sept. 8 in a dinner that precedes the Tour’s Hotel Fitness Championship, a professional golf tournament at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.

Founded in 1979, Sweetwater employs more than 900 people at its Fort Wayne headquarters. It is regarded as the largest online retailer of music instruments and audio gear in the U.S.

Surack also has founded or invested in several other successful business ventures in Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana, including Longe Optical, SweetCars and Sweet Aviation (flight education and training).

"Personally and professionally, Chuck’s passion for making Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana a better place has inspired everything he does," Don Banowetz, chair of the Mad Anthonys board of directors, said in a press release.

"Just as importantly, his focus on helping others, giving back and making his community better embodies what Mad Anthonys is all about, which is why we are honored to recognize him as our 2015 Red Coat recipient."

The Mad Anthonys, formed in 1957, are business leaders and professionals who have raised millions for charitable endeavors.

In announcing Surack as a Red Coat recipient, the Mad Anthonys wrote: "Surack is a long-time and committed community leader and philanthropist, playing a prominent role in economic development for Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana while also providing financial and volunteer support to hundreds of nonprofit organizations and cultural institutions throughout the region. In partnership with his wife, Lisa, his philanthropic efforts and community involvement have garnered official recognition and numerous awards from local, regional and state institutions."

Past Red Coat winners have included athletes, politicians, entertainers and more. Last year’s winners were Gov. Mike Pence and Tom Kelley, president of Kelley Automotive Group.

"I have not been that close to the Mad Anthonys, but I have seen the list of past winners, and I know through the years there have been very impressive people getting (the Red Coat)," Surack said.

Through Sweetwater and with his family, Surack said he supported 450 nonprofit organizations and has donated more than $2 million to charity in the past year.

"I’m very pleased and fortunate," he said. "I believe that you can’t take it with you. So I’m trying to share it with others. … We try and support virtually everything we can."

The Mad Anthonys Pro-Am – which supports the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House at Lutheran Hospital – will take place Sept. 7.

"Recognition has never been the reason why I work to support and strengthen our community," Surack said. "Nevertheless, it is a tremendous honor and a humbling experience to join the incredible family of Red Coat recipients. This is a very exciting day for me, my wife, Lisa, and my family."

The Hotel Fitness Championship runs Sept. 9 to 13. Hosted by the Western Golf Association, the Hotel Fitness Championship is one of four events in the Tour Finals and will help determine which players will earn status to participate on the PGA Tour in 2016.

Players eligible to participate in the Hotel Fitness Championship include the top 75 money winners on the Tour and the players 126 to 200 in the PGA Tour’s FedExCup points list.

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