“Deacon has touched more families, not just kids, but families through his work with the (Winner’s) Club and the Scouts than any other individual in the county,” said Sam Thomas, who helped Balliew start his world-renowned “Winner’s Club” and counted him as a friend.
“He will be sorely missed,” said Thomas.
Balliew died recently at his home at the age of 73.
Thomas said he began to work with Balliew around 1969, when Balliew formed a Boy Scout Troop for handicapped boys. At the time, the Civitan Club, which Thomas was a part of, had also just formed and they helped raise money for the troop. It wasn’t long after that when Balliew formed a Girl Scout Troop for handicap girls.
“He wanted to help those kids who couldn’t help themselves,” said Thomas.
It was in 1979, though, that Balliew decided to go in a different direction and founded, along with his wife, the late Inez Mull Balliew, The Winner’s Club for children who were handicapped or mistreated.
“His methods were a bit unorthodox, but it works. The kids loved it,” said Thomas. “He instilled self-confidence in the kids. He helped them do things they could never do at home.”
One of Thomas’s favorite memories of Balliew and the children he helped was when Balliew owned a pair of homing pigeons.
“He’d drive the kids and the pigeons up to Chattanooga and turn the birds loose,” said Thomas. “Then they’d zip back to Gordon County and find the pigeons back in their cage. The kids loved it.”
And Balliew knew how to get attention for his cause. The Winner’s Club became known world-wide through his efforts. American Express featured the club in it’s community service campaigns after giving it a $20,000 grant. Balliew was also recognized by Betty Crocker as “Volunteer of the Year” and Betty Crocker donated $50,000 to the organization.
But Balliew didn’t stop there, Thomas said.
“He made several trips to Ireland to help a community there start an organization like The Winner’s Club,” said Thomas.
Balliew stepped down from The Winner’s Club around 2005, Thomas said, and began volunteering at the George Chambers Resource Center. He lobbied communities in Gordon County to remember handicapped children when they designed playgrounds, and his efforts paid off when the City of Calhoun built a new playground, 80-percent handicapped accessible behind the George Chambers Resource Center.
He also continued his international missions work, often traveling to Haiti where he had a relationship with a school there.
“He is a man who is going to be missed by a lot of people because he touched so many lives,” said Thomas.
Balliew was laid to rest in Chandler Cemetery Sunday after a funeral service at Thomas Funeral Home. He was preceded in death by his wife, Inez Mull Balliew and two brothers, Larry and Toby Balliew. He is survived by two sons Troy and Glenn Balliew; one sister, Deborah Walraven; three grandchildren Jake, Emily and Katie Balliew; and one great-grandchild; Wyatt Balliew.