Allen does end run for 93-year-old fan

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

ST. THOMAS -- Damon Allen met his No. 1 fan.

It made 93-year-old Noni McLean's day for sure.

Allen's, too.

The Toronto Argonauts quarterback, and last year's Canadian Football League MVP, was among last night's head table guests at the 28th annual St. Thomas Sports Spectacular at St. Anne's Centre.

As soon as the 42-year-old Allen arrived for the afternoon meet-and-greet, he was asked by Gary Clarke, chairperson of the dinner's head table committee, if he might run down the block to Festival Gardens seniors apartment complex where McLean lives. She isn't able to get out often.

Allen to Clarke: "Sure, you lead the way."

Five minutes later, a shocked McLean opened the door to greet her hero.

"God love you, go sit down," she said after recovering her composure somewhat.

The pair chatted amiably for several minutes, McLean introducing her daughter, Moyra, and Allen talking about his family, including his three-year-old grandson.

Both understand longevity.

"As long as he keeps moving, I'll keep moving," said McLean.

Allen and McLean posed for photographs, the quarterback catching hugs and kisses tossed by Noni.

Then Allen asked, "Are you an Argos' fan?"

"I'm for wherever my favourite is," McLean gushed in obvious reference to Allen, who during his 21-year CFL career has had stops in B.C., Memphis, Edmonton, Hamilton, Ottawa and Toronto.

Among McLean's prized possessions is a football that Allen autographed during last week's London's Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction.

"You can come back anytime," McLean said to Allen just before he headed back to St. Anne's. "If you don't tell your wife, I won't either."

Allen obviously enjoyed his visit with McLean.

"I wish I was that active," he said later through a laugh. "It's nice to be able to meet people who are like that.

"She's a fan of the game and a fan of myself. It's very humbling, very nice."

Last night's head table included speaker Paul Stewart, a former National Hockey League player and referee; former NHLers Darryl Sittler (an ex-London Knights great), Gary Leeman and Howie Meeker, who is remembered as much for his impassioned analysis on Hockey Night in Canada as for being rookie of the year in 1946-47; ex-Buffalo Bills place kicker and Oakville native Steve Christie; former Montreal Expos pitcher and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Steve Rogers; and Sportsnet broadcaster Martine Gaillard.

Jerry Howarth, the voice of the Toronto Blue Jays, was expected at the big table, too, as a major part of the evening's tribute to Tom Cheek, Howarth's longtime partner in the booth and a supporter and emcee of the St. Thomas fete in its early years.

Proceeds from the dinner, which attracted more than 600 patrons, is expected to at least match the $20,000 raised last year. The money is split between the Special Olympics and the Elgin Association for Community Living.


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