Thomas Collins, II Receives Tourism Industry's Highest Honor from Lt. Governor; Retired CVB Director Recognized with Visit Indiana Leadership Award

16 Receive Hoosier Hospitality Awards

Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana Destination Development Corporation (IDDC) announced that Thomas Collins, II, owner and president of the Luke Family of Brands, is the 2022 recipient of the Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award. Betty Cash received the Visit Indiana Leadership Award.

2022 Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award

Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana Destination Development Corporation (IDDC) announced today that Thomas Collins, II, owner and president of the Luke Family of Brands, is this year's recipient of the Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award.

The Luke Family of Brands began as a supplier of home heating fuel and has since diversified its assets. From convenience stores across the state to a popular Northwest Indiana orchard, an Indianapolis restaurant and the creation of the Indiana Dunes Pavilion, Collins, II consistently demonstrates extraordinary commitment to supporting tourism.

The Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award is presented annually and is the highest tourism honor given by the state. The award is named for the late Will Koch, long-time owner and president of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari. Visit Indiana, and the Koch family established the honor to pay tribute to Koch's many meaningful contributions to tourism, business and society. 

"Collins, II is a leader in every sense of the word," Crouch said. "He has not only been instrumental in supporting Indiana tourism and economic development but also in his community service." 

Collins, II supports numerous charities. His recent donation of $50,000 to the Boys and Girls Club caused a ripple effect throughout his company. Shortly after that donation, employees expressed their interest in getting involved in their communities. In response, Collins, II created a program called Serving U. Employees now have the opportunity of paid volunteer days, grants, a giving match program, community clubs, and a mentorship program for employees who serve on a Board of Directors.

 "I am completely humbled by this honor," Collins, II said. "I accept this award on behalf of my family, Luke Family of Brands, the company and all the great people I work with every day." 

Nominations for the Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award are submitted by community leaders and members of Indiana's travel, tourism and hospitality industry. A panel reviews submissions. 

Betty Cash received the Visit Indiana Leadership Award. After seven years as the executive director, she retired from the Perry County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Before her role as director, Cash served on the tourism commission in Perry County for 13 years. She worked tirelessly to bring visitors to Perry County, supporting the local community and businesses. Her peers from SIRMC (Southern Indiana Regional Marketing Cooperative) nominated Cash. They group calls her an innovator, a forward-thinker, and a cheerleader.

Quote from SIRMC - "Betty leads with her heart, and her heart is most definitely tied to seeing her community and region prosper through its incredible tourism environment. Betty supports others and is always eager to lend a hand or smile. Her consistent desire to go the extra mile makes her stand out in her community and throughout the state."

2022 Hoosier Hospitality Award Winners

Tessie has been a receptionist for the Indiana State Fairgrounds for 25+ years. She is the welcoming face to over 2 million visitors to the Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center annually, including during the State Fair. Tessie has dedicated her career to serving her state and community.

The Southern Indiana Regional Marketing Cooperative says they were proud to nominate Shyla for this award. "We don't often use the word "love" when describing someone in the workplace, but that is exactly who Shyla is; loving for her family, her community and the role she plays in driving tourism."

Born and raised in Indiana, Alan personifies "Hoosier Hospitality" to its core. He takes it upon himself to research artists and shares his findings with the entire Newfields Guest Experience and Volunteer team; these fun facts create a memorable experience for all of the museum's guests.

Manny was nominated for this award because of his selflessness during the pandemic. Manny coordinated a 16-week food drive that assisted many individuals from the community. He worked tirelessly to ensure everyone got what they needed and personally welcomed every family who came for help.

Indianapolis Airport Authority (IAA) Guest Services Assistant Denise Davis takes away some of that stress for those passengers and has gone above and beyond the typical job duties. It is said that Denise focuses on more than just making a living; she is focused on making a difference.

Kate's nominator says she is the kind of person who goes above and beyond without being asked, the one who sees the need and doesn't hesitate to act upon it, the one that brings light into a stranger's life by showing a simple act of kindness.

Eric currently works at the Hendricks County Parks Department, but he began his tourism work as a blogger for Visit Hendricks County. 10 years later, he has written 400 articles about the destination. Eric has poured his adult life into telling anyone who will listen how terrific this destination…

Ari is responsible for creating such a unique experience for the over half-million visitors at Newfields. She is the Lead Associate and Mixologist. She delights them with her created drink concoctions, thoroughly researching each exhibit to develop drinks that honor the works featured.

Mark welcomes visitors to the Embassy Theatre box office in Fort Wayne. For first-time visitors, Mark takes great care and time to walk patrons into the theater to see its grand splendor. Whether giving out directions to a local eatery or listening to the stress-filled day of a patron, Mark makes…

For over 30 years, Linda Meek has been serving Hoosiers and visitors in Bartholomew County. She is currently the Banquet Captain at the Hilton Garden Inn in Edinburgh. Her nominator says that customers consistently refer to her as "an asset" and "a blessing to our hotel."

John lives and breathes Hoosier Hospitality. As the Destination Experience Manager/Visitor Experience, John's responsibilities are vast and diverse. He has literally written the manuals for volunteer programs and teaches several classes on hospitality at universities throughout Indiana.

Cory is the owner of two popular businesses in Franklin. At Electric Key Records, you may see him tracking down hard-to-find records for customers. He goes above and beyond by going to customers' homes to install new record players or buying unneeded record collections if the person needs the money.

Bruce has been a welcoming face of the Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center for nearly 30 years. At the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Bruce has hosted concertgoers, high school graduates, sports fans, and State Fair livestock enthusiasts for some of the most momentous occasions of their lives.

After she lost her parents to cancer, Debra recognized that families need money and support in the everyday struggle with the illness. So she created a festival to bring the Medora together to raise awareness and funds. The Hope Medora Goes Pink Festival has grown into a wonderful celebration.

Owner Debi Pierson and her staff exemplify Hoosier Hospitality. In one instance, a customer suffered a medical emergency while at the store with her baby. The staff got an ambulance for the woman and cared for her baby while she was at the hospital. The team even picked her up from the hospital.