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The Baltimore Sun

Bits & Pieces: Rayna DuBose tapped as keynote speaker for the Celebration of Sports banquet

Rayna DuBose will be the keynote speaker at the ninth annual banquet for the Howard County Celebration of Sports. The banquet will be held Oct. 18 at the Turf Valley Resort. Rayna's story is a dramatic one. A standout volleyball and basketball player at Oakland Mills High School, Rayna received a full basketball scholarship to Virginia Tech. Just after her freshman basketball season ended, Rayna contracted bacterial meningitis, which quickly took her on the brink of death. As Rayna fought for her life, her organ systems shut down. She was declared the sickest person in Virginia. Because of lack of blood flow to her extremities, Rayna eventually needed parts of all four limbs amputated.

Nearly a year later, Rayna returned to Virginia Tech to continue her education; she graduated with a degree in consumer studies.

Rayna has received the Most Courageous Award at the NCAA men's Final Four in 2003. She also received the Wilma Rudolph Award in 2005 and in 2009 she was awarded the National Ethnic Coalition Organization Congressional Ellis Island Medal of Honor and she was the McDonald's Athlete of the Day at the MilitaryParalympics.

Tickets for the banquet are $38; tables of 10 are available for $350. Call 410-313-7275 to purchase tickets. The evening includes a buffet dinner, the Community Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the GoodSports Awards. This year's Hall of Fame inductees are Bob Falk, Paul Goldenburg, Jean Hodges, Louise Waxler and the late Gary Arthur.

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Some of us still remember Joan Benoit, wearing a painter's hat, heading for the finish line to win the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics inaugural women's marathon. She was just 27 years old then and now at 54, her passion for running is as strong as ever.

"I get up between 6:30 and 7:30 have to run from 5 to 15 miles every day. It is a priority with me," she told me last week. Benoit Samuelson was in Columbia last Thursday to announce next year's Athleta Iron Girl Half Marathon and coed 5k. The event will benefit the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center.

I asked her how she happened to be here in Columbia. Her answer was simple. "Vigorito asked me to come." The Vigorito she was referring to is TriColumbia founder and president Rob Vigorito who is chiefly responsible for the explosion of the sport of triathlon here. Benoit Samuelson is planning to return in April for the inaugural Iron Girl Half Marathon.

Her appearance in Columbia included a visit with volunteers preparing the goodie bags for last Sunday's Iron Girl Triathlon. She told those assembled that she knew how important volunteers were to having a successful race and how much the athletes appreciated their efforts. She graciously signed autographs and posed for pictures.

Benoit Samuelson had to be in Baltimore early the next morning for a radio broadcast. She had a run planned with a fan prior to heading to Baltimore. She good naturedly chided Vigorito for her tight schedule. Such is the life of a gold medal super star.

Soccer coaches needed

Special Olympics Howard County is in need of soccer coaches. The 2011 season runs from late August through October. Practices are held twice a week — Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons.

Training will be provided. All new coaches must attend a volunteer orientation session Sept. 11 at 1:30 p.m.

Special Olympics is a year-round sports training and athletic competition program for children and adults who have intellectual disabilities.

For more information, call the SOHC office at 410-740-0500.

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