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Baseball player Frank Thomas to speak tonight at benefit dinner

Frank Thomas, who was a July inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame, will speak Thursday night in Columbus at the New Horizons Annual Benefit Dinner.

Also at the event, Jim Blanchard, retired chairman and chief executive officer of Synovus, will be presented the organization's Impact Award for his service in the community and support of New Horizons Behavioral Health.

The dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.

Tickets are $125 and may be purchased at the event. Payment can be made with credit card or check. Tickets may also be purchased at nhbh.org.

Sponsors for the event, that will benefit the New Horizons ClubHouse Program that provides substance abuse treatment to teens, are TSYS and Synovus.

Thomas, who now works as a studio analyst for Fox Sports, is Columbus native. He played his prep baseball at Columbus High School and college baseball at Auburn University.

In pro baseball, where he earned the nickname "The Big Hurt," he played for the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics but the majority of his career, that went from 1990 to 2008 was spent with the Chicago White Sox.

He hit 521 home runs in his career and was twice named the American League's most valuable player.

Last year's speaker at the dinner was also a former star athlete, former college and pro running back Herschel Walker.

"This is a big baseball and football community," said David Wallace, development director for New Horizons.

He said the remarkable thing about the career of Thomas is that the player accomplished what he did without the use of steroids while so many others were using the banned drugs.

"He did it all clean and sober and that will be part of his message, that you can achieve great things the right way," Wallace said.

Wallace said more than 500 tickets have already been sold for the event that is the main fundraiser for New Horizons. a nonprofit organization that provides services to those with mental illness, developmental disabilities and addictive diseases.

New Horizons serves eight counties in western Georgia. Comprehensive services are offered to consumers, from healthcare and pharmacology to addressing the needs of disabled individuals who can't care for themselves.

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