Kathy Laurich-Hryb has attended a number of Browns training camps in her life. But on Oct. 24, she received an opportunity to tour the inside of the CrossCountry Mortgage campus.
She came to the facility to pick up four posters for each of her kids and herself from Membership Development Specialist Devin Stith. She saves a poster from each game to frame and displays them in her basement.
As Laurich-Hryb continued her tour of the CrossCountry Mortgage facility, one stop along the way was through the equipment room. As she turned the corner and entered a room, she was greeted by a surprise guest, G Joel Bitonio.
"He's amazing. Like I told him, he's a good role model for kids. He's an awesome player. He gives his all. It was an honor," Laurich-Hryb said. "I used to teach, and I know that kids look up to these guys, and we need role models like him."
Bitonio presented Laurich-Hyrb with a jersey, and revealed to her that she was the Browns Fan of the Year. Bitonio also surprised her with another jersey with his number and autograph.
Yet, the surprises did not stop there. On another stop along her tour to the studio for X's and Joes, Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Thomas revealed virtually to Laurich-Hryb tickets to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.
"It's overwhelming," Laurich-Hyrb said. "It's like an out-of -body experience. I can't believe this is happening to me. I mean, this is such an honor. I mean, there's thousands of people who support the Browns, millions, and this is me. This is awesome. I'm very appreciative."
Laurich-Hryb has been a life-long Browns fan, attending games throughout her childhood and into her adult life. While she attends each home game, she also tries to travel to two away games a season now that she is retired.
Yet, the Browns are not just a football team to her – it's her heart, passion and deep connection to her family as a tradition that she has vowed to carry on.
"It's my dad's fault," she said. "He taught me all this when I was seven. I'm the youngest of four girls and I went to the games. I didn't know anything about football, but it was time with my dad, and I got hooked."
She is still a dedicated season ticket member. Laurich-Hryb took over her father's ticket account after he passed away in 1991 that has been in her family for over 75 years. Her father had the tickets when the team was the Cleveland Rams – which was founded in 1936 as part of the American Football League to 1946 when they departed for Los Angeles in Jan. 1946 and the Cleveland Browns took over. She said that Paul Brown took her father around the stadium to pick out his eight original seats.
Laurich-Hryb said that she worked three part-time jobs after being a stay-at-home mom in order to keep the tickets in her family. She also has memorabilia from the old stadium in her basement and in her yard from that era of Browns' history.
"No one else was going to sit in my dad's seats," she said. "And we have my dad's original seats in my basement. It's history. It's what I was raised, it was what I was grown up with. Brown and orange is in my blood. It's just the way we did it and I couldn't let 'em go. I just had to keep them."
Laurich-Hryb didn't have to share the experience at the Browns facility alone. Her son Shawn Hryb was on the tour with her, while her daughter Kolleen DeGrazia, as well as other family members, grandchildren and her support team surprised her on the field with signs congratulating her for winning Browns Fan of the Year. They wanted to return the support she offered them throughout their lives.
Hryb and DeGrazia knew ahead of time that their mother had won the Browns Fan of the Year. They were at the Colts game in Indianapolis, and Hryb took video to help capture their day at the game. They then helped organize Laurich-Hryb's arrival to the facility two days later for the reveal.
"She's so deserving and so worthy of all of this, and it brings joy to my heart to see her be happy," DeGrazia said.
All three of Laurich-Hryb's kids at a young age attended a game with their grandfather. After he passed away, she continued to take her three kids to a number of Browns games. When the Browns were on the road, they would watch the games on TV. Her love for the Browns was instilled in each of her children. Now, as DeGrazia has grown and has her own children, that same love for the Browns has been passed along to them.
"The Browns bring family together and that's like what these tickets do for us," Hryb said. "Some families have Sunday dinners. Well, we have Sunday football games in Cleveland."
Laurich-Hryb is a retired elementary school physical education teacher of 29 years and she has been a major proponent of women and girls in sports. Her passion for football and the Browns has inspired her to empower women in sports by hosting "Women in Sports" days, teaching children positive physical education needs and volunteering her time in the sports community on a regular basis.
"She is the most giving person," DeGrazia said. "I mean, you call her, and somebody needs something, and she is there. From her teaching days of doing 'Women in Sports' day and trying to empower girls in sports and just teaching children positive physical education needs and things to help them be better. She is just always there for her friends and for her family. And there's nobody who deserves this more than my mom."