White selected as Ohio’s Knight of the Year by fraternal group

Dan White and his friend, Matt Chwalik, pose with the Knight of the Year award after the ceremony in Columbus.

Dan White recently was named Knight of the Year from among 58,000 members by the Ohio Knights of Columbus, the first time a Seneca County man has been selected for the honor.

“This is an individual award, but it doesn’t exist outside of a council, without all the things that led up to all of this,” White said. “One of the key things is that that particular award has never been received by anyone in this county — ever.

“It reflects on the council,” he said. “I tend to run through life pretty hard and absorb as much of it as you can. I really believe a fair amount of it was Divine.”

To make the ceremony in Columbus more special, White’s 30-year friend, Matt Chwalik, was able to make the trip despite his battle with brain cancer.

“Grandpa Rathweg told me the best of part of life comes from the friendships that you foster,” White said.

He said that stuck with him as an 18-year-old graduating from high school.

“(Matt) is the first person we met when we moved back to Tiffin,” White said. “Our lives have been interconnected for a very long time.”

And when it came time for putting in an application for Knight of the Year, Chwalik wrote a letter of recommendation.

“He’s such a great guy, just a great, great guy,” White said. “To have him as a friend is one in a thousand.

“The sand grains are limited in his hour glass,” he said.

But Chwalik said he would write the letter with some of the time he has left on earth, White said.

“They’re very expensive hours,” White said. “But that letter carried this whole nomination across the goal line and punched it in.”

According to the application — not written by White — he and his wife, Teresa, are members of St. Joseph Parish, where they were married March 23, 1985. It is the parish White grew up in, having been an altar boy from grades 5-12.

The application said White has been involved with the annual parish festival and Tiffin Catholic Men’s Group, including writing an ad and public service announcements for WSJG Catholic Radio FM103.3.

Originally looking for a way to foster access to good Christian movies, the application said White and brother knights initiated a “Dinner and a Movie” program at the K of C, which showed “Paul, Apostle of Christ.”

He’s involved in many other activities, and chose the book “Rome Sweet Home” as a book to be distributed during the past year. This year, he was instrumental in distributing Matthew Kelly’s book “Why I Love Being Catholic.”

The application said White joined Tiffin Knights of Columbus Council 608 in September 2017 and has worked his way up to the level of fourth degree. He served as the organization’s chancellor.

White also has been involved in many community activities, most notably being the driving force behind the movie “Unplanned” being shown in Tiffin.

“As a council, did we ever cover some ground and do a lot of interesting things that we were able to take advantage of,” he said. “It culminated in being able to bring the movie ‘Unplanned’ to town.”

The movie has a theme of abortion and unplanned pregnancy.

At first, the movie promotion company thought Tiffin wasn’t large enough to support a showing of “Unplanned,” White said. But after much email correspondence, he convinced the company and Cinemark Tiffin Mall 8 it would be worth it.

“There was just something about that particular movie,” he said. “We needed to see that here. We tend to be a very strong pro-life region.”

Not only was White able to convince the companies to take a chance on the small town, he said a theater was reserved with 252 seats.

“Then came the task of selling 252 seats,” White said. “We went to Tiffin Right-to-Life and K of C. Tickets sold out in a day and a half.”

Then word started getting around that the movie was showing in Tiffin, but the tickets were gone. So White and crew checked with Cinemark was able to secure a theater with an additional 90 seats.

“All those tickets were sold 3 1/2 days before we even got the tickets,” he said.

The subject matter is timely, he said.

“It’s a very important movie at a very important time,” White said. “Opening night, there were only 500 theaters in all of the United States that had that movie.”

“Everybody’s got their own take on pro-life and their perceptions,” he said. “The lady who wrote the book that ‘Unplanned’ was based on was involved in Planned Parenthood for several years.”

White said author Abby Johnson worked in the office at Planned Parenthood, but when she participated in running one pre-abortion ultrasound, he said she mind changed about abortion.

“The scales fell off her eyes and she saw she’d been lied to,” he said. “It’s not a blob of cells. It’s a baby. That’s a pretty strong message.”

“The gist of the movie offers a lot of hope and healing for people who have been involved in that,” White said. “It’s not casting judgement, but helping to heal.”

The application included a long list of other community and council activities such as food giveaways and serving his fellow human beings.

White said that’s all part of being a Knights of Columbus member.

He said personal and organization growth is the focus of membership in the Catholic fraternal organization.

“Through membership you become a better man, husband and father,” he said. “It kind of sharpens you as an individual.”