The 11th annual "Celebration of Sports" is being held Oct. 15 at the Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center and, as part of the festivities, a new class is being inducted into the Community Sports Hall of Fame.
This year's six inductees will join an elite group that honors those who have gained prominence and/or have made a substantial contribution to community recreational sports in Howard County. Including this year's additions, the Hall of Fame has more than 60 members.
Tickets for this year's induction ceremony are available at howardcountymd.gov or by stopping by the Recreation and Parks Headquarters off Oakland Mills Road in Columbia.
Here's a look at this year's Hall of Fame class:
Growing up, Alford had competed as a baton twirler in the state of Maryland throughout her teenage years. Looking for a way to continue her involvement in the sport, she founded the Dynamics — a competitive baton-twirling club that made its debut in a Fourth of July parade in 1976.
In the years since, the Dynamics have represented Howard County across the globe, winning 10 world championships and 94 national team titles. Her twirlers have won individual titles, including Miss Majorette, and in 1988 the team won its first Grand National Title in Dance twirl team competition. That success has continued over the past few decades.
Over the years, "Miss Linda" — as she's referred to by the girls — has instilled the desire to achieve excellence in sport and in all aspects of life to hundreds of young athletes between the ages of 3 and 22. She has served as a coach, role model and mentor.
"She has shared with them her passion for the sport, the benefit of her talent for teaching them the skills they need to succeed and the inspiration to be confident, successful young adults," wrote Sandra Lambert when she nominated Alfrod for the Hall of Fame.
In his youth, Dunn learned to play golf on a free public course in Pennsylvania. So, when he moved to Howard County in 1965 and discovered a lack of affordable golf courses in the area, he made it his mission to create opportunities for young player to learn the game and seniors to continue playing.
Dunn lobbied the county council and, later the Columbia Association, to build public courses by writing letters, attending meetings and forming the Howard County Golfers Association. Over the years, he served on the boards of the Howard County Recreation and Parks Department and First Tee. Eventually his efforts helped convince the county to issue revenue bonds to pay for courses to be built.
Having available public courses, the Timbers at Troy and Fairway Hills, in the area is a testament to the persistence of individuals like Dunn. The First Tee program at Fairway Hills has been especially successful in creating opportunities for young players.
"Acting as a volunteer for the First Tee program and helping young athletes acquire the life skills they will need to succeed in life (is one of my fondest memories)," Dunn wrote.
For more than 30 years, Gralia served as a reporter for the Howard County Times and Columbia Flier newspapers. She started out covering racquetball as a freelance reporter in 1979 and gradually worked her way through the ranks. Along the way, she covered everything from boating to the entire lineup of high school sports, all with the mindset of making sure everyone got equal coverage.
She eventually worked her way up to become sports editor, holding the position for 10 years. During that time, she continued the model of success laid out by her predecessors — Stan Ber and Karen Brelsford — and received recognition by the Suburban Newspaper Association for having one of the best community sports sections in the country. An award-winning journalist in her own right, she also is a co-founder of the Howard County Women's Sports Hall of Fame.
Gralia says she holds dearly to a saying that is inscribed on a piece of jewelry she owns, which reads, "We seldom end up where we wanted to go, but almost always end up where we need to be."
"I had intended to become a physical education teacher and I ended up being a journalist instead," she said. "And to think about it, journalism is where I needed to be. It's where I've been able to make an impact."
As a passionate softball supporter, Oppenheimer spread his love for the game as a player, a coach, coordinator and sponsor. From the 1980s until he died tragically in 2011 while in Phoenix for a women's softball tournament, he touched the lives of all the people he encountered.
He sponsored several women's and coed teams every season over the course of nearly three decades, paying for everything from uniforms and equipment to tournament travel costs. Among the teams that he supported were the Columbia Stars, Lew's Crew, the Terminators and the Dragons. All he asked for in return was that his players show up early to warm up and then that they went out and played their best.
For Oppenheimer it wasn't just about enjoying the sport, it was about enjoying the people and the time spent together.
It was in 1978 that Roberts first began coaching in the Soccer Association of Columbia, taking over a team that his oldest daughter was playing on that he decided needed better coaching. He's been a fixture in the program every since, leading countless girls and boys recreational level teams. He often coached more than one team each season.
While coaching was his primary focus, Roberts also served as a neighborhood coordinator, the South District recreational coordinator, age-group coordinator and U-15/19 girls recreational coordinator for SAC/HC over the years. One of his goals was always to provide new opportunities for the players.
"Early in SAC's history there was just two levels of play for girls — travel and recreation," Roberts said. "Bill McCormack, Mike Podolny and I started the first girls Recreational Select Program for SAC."
Roberts is currently the second longest-serving, active in coach in the SAC/HC program.
It wasn't long after Weigold joined the Howard County Striders in 1977 that he was doing more than just running in races. He started helping out in any way he could.
Over the years he has volunteered at almost every level in the club, whether it was packet pick-ups, serving as the weekly race director or holding the position of club president.
He was an innovator as well, helping modernize the club with the implementation of a computerized finish-line process. He also organized the Colulmbus Chase 10k races that benefit Howard Community College's Education Foundation, started the 2-mile Columbia Birthday runs and was race director for the first Columbia Triathlon in 1984. He was the race director of the BWI Airport Run/Walk, which benefits the Kennedy Krieger Institute's Down Syndrome Clinic, for 21 years.
Weigold, who now lives in Arizona, is a member of the Striders' Hall of Fame.