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Gov. Branstad, Casey Blake highlight Character Counts! Week in Iowa

The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University will celebrate CHARACTER COUNTS! Week in Iowa with a proclamation by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and the announcement of a high-profile award for Major League Baseball player Casey Blake.

Branstad will issue his annual CHARACTER COUNTS! Week proclamation at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at Conmigo Early Education Center in Des Moines. The governor will urge Iowans to model the “Six Pillars of Character” in an ongoing commitment to promote character development and ethical behavior among youth. Also at the event, students will perform songs in English and Spanish.

The Ray Center will announce during a special ceremony Thursday, Oct. 22, that Indianola native Casey Blake, a former Major League Baseball third baseman, will be the 2016 Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award honoree. The announcement will be made at 10 a.m. in Indianola Middle School’s Blake Fieldhouse, a 30,000 square-foot facility built in 2012 with a $1 million donation from Blake. He is set to officially receive the award at the 11th Annual All-Star Evening, an awards ceremony, on April 15, 2016, in the Prairie Meadows Events Center in Altoona.

Blake grew up in Indianola and was named as a top-ten athlete in Iowa high school athletic history. While attending Wichita State University, Blake played in the College World Series, and was a three time All-American and a two-time Academic All-American. He joined the Cleveland Indians in 2003 and retired as a Los Angeles Dodger in 2012.

He currently lives in Indianola with his wife, Abbie, and six children, and continues to support the community through a variety of youth sports camps and other philanthropic efforts. In 2010, Casey and Abbie Blake formed the Indianola Community Youth Foundation (ICYF) to give back and build on Indianola’s reputation as a community committed to its youth. The first goal for ICYF was to match the Blakes’ $1 million donation in order to provide at least $2 million toward additional Indianola facilities. The Blake Fieldhouse opened to the public August 2012.

Blake was the featured Iowan on the 2011 Iowa High School Athletic Association Sportsmanship-Citizenship poster, and is in the Indianola High School Hall of Fame, the Wichita State University Hall of Fame, and the IHSAA Basketball Hall of Fame. In July 2014, Blake was inducted in the National High School Hall of Fame.

Drake University acquired the Iowa-based nonprofit Character Counts In Iowa in January 2015 as a foundational element of the new Ray Center.  The Ray Center focuses on character development initiatives like CHARACTER COUNTS! to help create strong, vibrant communities characterized by positive, healthy relationships and ethical behavior. Through public awareness and programming grounded in research, The Ray Center provides character-based leadership development and the tools to put civility into action.

Founded in 1997 by former Governor Ray as part of Iowa’s sesquicentennial celebration, Character Counts In Iowa has been a grant-funded institute at Drake since inception, and serves a regional center for the national CHARACTER COUNTS! organization, the Josephson Institute, and the regional center for the Institute for Excellence & Ethics. Character Counts In Iowa has worked with more than 50,000 Iowa educators, coaches, and community leaders to teach the iconic Six Pillars of Character as developed by CHARACTER COUNTS!—trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship—in schools, workplaces, communities, and in the home.