Gina Oliva brings pickleball to Montpelier [South Laurel/Montpelier]

Have you ever played pickleball? Do you know what pickleball is? Previously, I would have had to answer "no" to both questions. As it turns out, the Montpelier Association had its first "Let's Play Pickleball" event on July 27 on the Montpelier tennis courts.

Montpelier resident Gina Oliva organized this event after learning to play at the Villages in Florida, known as "Pickleball Mecca." Gina kept thinking, "I will have to retire to Florida if I want to play pickleball" but then she thought, "Why not just bring pickleball to Montpelier?" With support from the Montpelier Board of Trustees and a few local pickleball afficionados the event was a success. Floyd Zaplotny, Anne Arundel County ambassador for the United States Pickleball Association and Kevin Hall, teacher's aide at Maryland School for the Deaf and lifeguard at Fairlands Aquatic Center, were on hand at the event to provide pickleball instruction, additional equipment and support. Pickleball combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Equipment includes wiffle balls, paddles and a low net on a court somewhat smaller than a tennis court. At the Montpelier event, the current tennis courts were marked off with chalk to the appropriate pickleball size.

Several Montpelier residents showed up and the four courts were full most of the morning. Jim and Pat Behenna, Karen and Katie Gritton (with friend Phil Gandy), Lynne, Matthew, and Danielle Collman, Sue and Peter Thompson, and several other Montpelier residents learned to play and, by all accounts, had a great time. Some participants have already returned to the Montpelier tennis courts to play pickleball with equipment loaned by Kevin Hall.

Gina has lived in Montpelier since 1992. She worked at Gallaudet University for 37 years before retiring in 2009. Her colleagues in the Department of Physical Education and Recreation provided equipment for the event. Always involved with recreational sports, Gina is also known for her 2004 book "Alone in the Mainstream," composed of her interviews with other adults with hearing loss who, like herself, attended public schools. She plans to organize another event in the fall.

Take time this fall to attend one of Montpelier Mansion's afternoon teas. They are currently scheduled for Saturdays, Sept. 28, Oct. 12, Oct. 26, Nov. 9, and Nov. 16 at 1:30 p.m. in the mansion. Cost is $29 per person and $25 per person for members of the Friends of Montpelier. Call 301-377- 7817 for information and reservations.

The fall season of concerts is beginning at the Montpelier Arts Center, with some classes starting on Sept 14. Call 301-377-7800 for schedule and fee information.

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