Award not plain

Scholarship awards came to Newport Harbor High seniors Presley Pender and Jordan Desguin last week at a restaurant near John Wayne Airport.

The ceremony, the food and the recognition seemed simple enough. But there was meaning behind the scholarships.

A family atmosphere, along with valuable lessons and a strong sense of community were somehow attached to those scholarships.

Pender and Desguin didn't know how much scholarship money they received, but they felt honored and maybe realized all the meaning while at Gulliver's Restaurant.

A great deal of the lessons came from Mike Kincaid, the president of the Traveler's Group of Gulliver's, a group that raises money for local charities throughout the year. The group also gave the scholarships to Pender and Desguin.

Pender is the captain of the Newport Harbor girls' water polo team, which plays for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title against rival Corona del Mar on Saturday. She's headed to Michigan. Desguin, bound for Florida State, plays shortstop for the Sailors' baseball team.

Their focus is on their respective sport this year.

Kincaid is a businessman but is wise enough to know the lessons he learned also applies to sports and beyond. Kincaid, when he was 20, came to Newport Beach from Nevada in 1978 with a big dream, but began with little hope. He lived in his car for a month and showered at the local YMCA until he found work. Eventually, he started a construction company at 24. Three years later he said he became a millionaire.

"The drive inside me was always wanting to win," Kincaid said, comparing his rise to athletics. "I came to know that in business, and it can be applied in sports, that failure is not an option. You can never lose that fear of failure. Once you do that you'll get complacent."

Kincaid said when he lived in his car he would swear to himself that if he ever had the chance to give back he would. Charity and being the president of the Traveler's Group is his way of giving back.

The Traveler's Group of Gulliver's, in Newport Beach, has provided food for the hungry. The group also gave over 200 backpacks for underprivileged children in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, Kincaid said.

Last week's ceremony was a time to honor two students who received scholarships, and a time to raise more money as there was an auction.

In addition, former Dodgers Manager Tommie Lasorda spoke. In the past, the Traveler's Group has also had star tight end Tony Gonzalez, former UCLA football coach Terry Donahue, former USC football coach John Robinson and former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Abbott speak to the group.

The charity acts and the celebrity speakers appear as the strong sense of community.

The family atmosphere was seen with Pender and Desguin. Their families sat at the same table during the luncheon. Pender's father, Denny, is a close friend of Kincaid's. Presley Pender said Kincaid is like an uncle.

Denny Pender coached Desguin in youth baseball and has watched him grow into one of the top players for Newport Harbor.

Presley Pender and Desguin are in their final year at Newport Harbor. Then it's off to college, out of state.

But they won't forget their family. They won't forget their scholarship awards. The token might seem simple, but the meaning behind it isn't.

steve.virgen@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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