Turner Scholarship recognizes determination and effort

jochavez@capgaznews.com

Maryland Transportation Authority police officer Grant Turner wasn’t the best of the best, but no one put more effort into achieving their goals.

That’s the essence of the Officer Grant Turner Memorial Fund Scholarship, which his parents, Phil and Nancy Turner, set up in 2006, a year after their son passed.

“You would remember him … he was the kind of kid that everybody loved. He had a big heart,” Nancy said.

Officer Turner was a member of the 37th class of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Department (MdTA). On July 16, 2005, Turner’s class was participating in the Duke Aaron 5K Memorial Run, which honors a fallen police officer. Grant finished 64th out of 99 runners. After turning in his scorecard, he collapsed. Efforts by emergency personnel to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

Officer Turner passed away at 24 years old. He had fulfilled all the qualifications of the Maryland Police Training Commission and was just four weeks shy of graduating.

The scholarship is awarded to student athletes and individuals who exude the ethical values and character that Nancy and Phil saw in their son. Recipients are not necessarily the best — or even athletes — but they display the motivation and determination that drove Grant to be successful in his life.

“All Grant wanted in high school was to be on the lacrosse team, and he couldn’t make the run [time],” Nancy recalled. “He ran every day after school. He ran, and he ran, and he ran. You would have thought he was Forrest Gump, he ran so much … He put so much effort into it that the coach said, ‘Grant, you’re on the team.’ He recognized his tenacity.”

This year the fund awarded scholarships to nine recipients, the second-most number of scholarships since it was first awarded in 2006. The scholarship fund has paid out $94,600 to date.

“[Recipients] don’t even have to play a sport, they just have to be involved in sports,” Nancy said. “They could be a team manager, a ball boy, a towel boy, or they could play.”

Recipients this year include Chris Arnold of South River, Devon Goodwin of Annapolis, Colleen Ray of Arundel, Andrew Martin of Old Mill, James Waller of Glen Burnie, Jake Hallet of Severna Park, Charlotte Bader of Chesapeake, and Janine Benner of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

The process begins with local coaches nominating kids. Then a selection committee chooses scholarship winners.

The Maryland Diamond Umpires Association (MDUA), the Maryland Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors (MdCOPS) and the MdTA all receive awards in the form of a grant, which can be used for their own scholarship programs. MDUA does not have a scholarship program, however, and recipients receive the Turners’ scholarship.

“These kids have no idea they’re getting the scholarship,” Nancy said. “They only have to have a 2.0 GPA. They can go to a four-year school, a two-year school, or a trade school. When we go to senior awards nights and give out scholarships, it’s amazing because they don’t know [what they’re getting].”

Recipients have a broad range of how they can apply their scholarship. A 2013 recipient from the MDUA, Chris Scott, used his scholarship to go to professional umpiring school. Scott has since umpired throughout minor league baseball, including the Double-A Eastern League, which includes the Bowie Baysox.

Funds for the scholarship are primarily raised through two events: the Officer Grant Turner Memorial Baseball Tournament and the Officer Turner Golf Tournament. The tournaments have been held annually since 2006 and 2014, respectively. Donations to the scholarship fund are also accepted.

“Grant was an umpire,” said Phil, who himself is a retired sergeant of the Annapolis City police and retired Anne Arundel County sheriff's deputy. “That’s how the baseball tournament got developed, through Grant being an umpire. But when we got rained out several different [years], we figured we [should add] the golf tournament, because a bunch of us are all golfers as well.”

The dependency on Mother Nature to cooperate is a glaring drawback to the baseball tournament. The maneuvering and cost associated with having out-of-area teams —t he tournament attracted 136 teams last year — come back again would be too much to manage.

The baseball tournament was once again rained out this year. The fourth annual golf tournament took place on August 28.

With the Officer Grant Memorial Fund Scholarship being a clear success, the Turners are looking to broaden the scope of their mission.

“Our goal is to make the scholarship become an endowment,” Nancy said. “We almost have enough money. If we had the baseball tournament this year, we could have done it this year.”

“We hope to do an endowment at South River, one at MdTA, and one at MDUA. So then Grant will live on forever through the endowment.

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