The festive glamour of "Indiana’s Salute to Women: The 2009 Torchbearer Awards" was outdone only by the shining lives of the women honored. The event, presented by the Indiana Commission for Women, honors women who have overcome obstacles to make Indiana a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Rep. Suzanne Crouch, one of the 14 members of the Indiana Commission for Women, presented Pat Koch, an owner of Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari in Spencer County, with the "Heart of Indiana" award.
"Pat Koch believes you can both run a profitable business and do the right thing with customers and employees," said Rep. Crouch (R-Evansville). "She and her husband, Bill, who passed away in 2001, turned a small kiddie park into the wildly successful and famous Holiday World.
"Pat is avidly involved in making her community a better place to live," explained Rep. Crouch. "From a personal greeting to every guest, to pitching in with the most unpleasant tasks, Pat leads by example."
Koch was honored, along with other recipients, at a dinner and ceremony in Indianapolis.
As Holiday World’s Director of Values, Koch is known for never giving up, even when her and her husband’s early ideas for the amusement park failed. She has always been willing to do whatever is needed, even scrubbing restrooms.
Koch’s father, Jim Yellig, masqueraded as Santa Claus when the enterprise was known as Santa Claus Land.
But Koch didn’t immediately follow her father’s holiday-tinged footsteps. She went to nursing school, and then spent 10 years in a Daughters of Charity convent. Upon her return to Santa Claus, Ind., she became re-acquainted with Bill Koch, 17 years her senior. After marrying, the couple had five children.
Koch has been a promoter of family values in the Santa Claus community, spending hours with the young employees that flood the park every summer.
Koch has said, "You can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration."
"Pat clearly chooses to inspire," said. Rep. Crouch. "I think it’s fabulous that this evening gives us the chance to recognize women in Indiana who have changed our state for the better."
Tuesday night’s gala was the fifth annual Torchbearer award ceremony. Gov. Mitch Daniels congratulated nominees and award recipients at a special reception prior to the dinner and ceremony.
The Indiana Commission for Women assesses the current status and needs of women in Indiana, and seeks to give women a voice. The ICW’s mission is to change the way the state, communities and political, economic and educational spheres interact with women.