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United Way recognizes Bob Kays as volunteer of the year

By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer

Marlborough – The United Way of Tri-County announced Bob Kays of Marlborough as Volunteer of the Year at its annual recognition breakfast, held April 6 at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel & Conference Center.

Kays is the longtime chair of the community’s foremost fundraisers including Evening of Giving for Roland’s House in Marlborough, a temporary emergency shelter operated by the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC). He was nominated for the honor by Susan Gentili, SMOC continuum of care and services director. In its 27 years, the Evening of Giving benefit has raised over $840,000.

Paul Mina, UWTC president and CEO, appreciates the longstanding support from Kays as a volunteer and benefactor.

“Bob has been very generous with his time and his money,” Mina said. “Anytime I’ve asked him for help with programs that the United Way supports and operates in the Assabet Valley area, he has always stepped up and been there for us. Honoring Bob helps us remember that oftentimes we support others with no expectation of any kind of payback; you do it just because it’s the right thing to do.”

For many inaugural years, Kays has co-chaired the Mayor’s Charity Ball, which benefits the Mayor’s Charity Relief Fund to help Marlborough residents in need of financial assistance. The event’s highlight is naming the Humanitarian of the Year Award recipient. Kays was presented the honor in 1992 by then-Mayor Michael Hogan. In 2010, then-Mayor Nancy Stevens introduced a new accolade: the Lifetime Community Service Award and presented it to Kays.

His community service and upstanding citizenship earned Kays the Good Scout Award in 2012 from the Boy Scouts’ Knox Trail Council. In 2013, he was selected as grand marshal of the Marlborough Labor Day Parade to personify that year’s theme: “Spirit of Marlborough.”

According to Kays, he’s among good company with the city’s eager volunteers doing community service.

“I’m one of many volunteering for fundraisers in Marlborough,” he said. “I’ve found this city to be extremely generous for causes to raise money for people in need. People who support me and do the grunt work never get recognized. They help me with these fundraisers, so that gives me the opportunity to reach out and do more.”

Now, Kays is serving his ninth year as chair of the Marlborough-Hudson Relay for Life to benefit the American Cancer Society. He volunteers for the cause for a personal reason. His sister Elizabeth Scalamini lost her battle with cancer at age 71 in 2008.

Kays was unaware until after his sister passed away how dedicated she was to the Relay for Life during her last 20 years. In 1986, she helped organize the fundraiser in Campbell, Calif.

“I knew she was taking care of cancer patients because she was a nurse,” he noted. “She never told me how involved she was with the relay.”

Prior to learning of her relay involvement, Kays had prepared food for two years for cancer survivors at the Marlborough-Hudson relay. At the time, the fundraiser took place at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School. In 2009, he accepted more responsibilities as event chair and moved the relay to Ghiloni Park for more space. This year, the relay will return to its original location: Ward Park – with enhancements.

“Ward Park will be a good venue for the relay,” Kays said. “Now, it’s a revamped park. It’s really been fixed up nicely.”

Kays plans to continue chairing the relay along with other fundraisers.

“Cancer is a devastating disease and I want to carry the torch for my sister,” he said. “You want to work a little harder to help when it gets that close to you. Practically every family is affected by cancer.”

The Marlborough-Hudson Relay for Life will be he held Friday, May 19, 6 p.m., through Saturday, May 20, 6 a.m. For more information, and to join or donate to a local relay team, visit; contact Alyssa Tracy at 508-270-4659 or