Stephanie Speierman

Hammond graduate Stephanie Speierman, seen here in this portrait following her senior season with the Golden Bears in 2009, wrapped up her collegiate career at the University of Michigan this spring. (File photo by Matt Roth / May 26, 2009)

It seems hard to believe, but the softball career of one of Columbia's all-time greats came to a close last week. Stephanie Speierman wrapped up her collegiate career at the University of Michigan following a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Stephanie started playing with the Atholton Youth Recreation Association at a very young age and then went on to become one of Hammond High School's greatest athletes. She helped the program to a state championship in 2007, pitching a perfect game with 19 strikeouts in the finals.

She went on to excel at Michigan, putting together an 18-1 record and a 1.88 ERA as a sophomore. But there was more to her than wins and losses.

After that standout sophomore season, she took a backseat to other pitchers recruited by the school and became primarily a relief pitcher. She could have transferred and played elsewhere, but because she loved the school and the team she stayed and was the perfect teammate.

She continued to be exceptional in the classroom, earning All-Big Ten Academic honors for three years while majoring in psychology.

Stephanie will now be moving to Grand Rapids and hopes to get into coaching. We wish her the best of luck and thank her for all of the thrills she provided us over her illustrious career.

I knew her grandfather well and I remember how he used to attend her games even when he was ill. I have no doubt that he would be so proud of her now.

Dennison in good health

Those of us who have known Bernie Dennison over the years now have to do a double take when we run into him.

He has always been a very large man — standing 6-foot-6 and weighing in at more than 300 pounds. But after sustaining a serious fall, the President of the Howard County Youth Program has undergone some serious changes. The blood clot that was a result of the fall was dealt with and Bernie has lost 150 pounds over the last few months since the accident.

So if you see Bernie during one of his regular walks, you may be stunned. Though, he's kept his sense of humor through it all. "I am not going to Atlantic City any more," said Bernie, who has dedicated 32 years of his life to HCYP and is the epitome of community service. "I have used up all of my luck."

Bernie, here's to your good health.

Run for Boston victims

The Howard County Striders have a long and distinguished record of giving. On June 2, the Striders upheld that tradition of giving back to the community by holding a 4.09-mile run at Oakland Mills High School to raise funds for the "Be Strong Stay Strong" Fund. The fund is designed to raise money for two local women who were injured on April 15 in the Boston Marathon tragedy.

Over 300 runners took part in the race that was designed to help with medical costs associated with the injuries sustained by Erika Brannock and her sister Nicole Gross, who are both Mt. Hebron graduates, in Boston. The two women were at the finish line cheering on their family members that ran the fundraiser race — making the event even more special.

The distance of the race, 4.09, reflected the race clock at the time of the blast.

We realize that words by themselves cannot heal, but we hope that the outpouring of community support and spirit can somehow help in that process. Erika, Nicole and her husband will always be in our hearts.