One name is synonymous with tennis in Howard County – Shantha Chandra. Since Ms. Chandra moved to the county in 1998, she has taught more than 7,000 children and 300 adults how to play tennis. As a United States Tennis Association-certified instructor, Ms. Chandra has championed the Quick-Start tennis teaching method and has given children and adults of all backgrounds and skills a chance to learn the game. Beyond teaching, she advocates for inclusion in the sport and organizes grassroots efforts to collect equipment to donate to the County’s elementary and middle schools. Ms. Chandra created the Multi-Cultural Children’s Tennis Association and has served as Diversity and Inclusion Chair for the Mid-Atlantic Section of the USTA. In 2003, she received a Lifetime Service Award from the USTA’s Mid-Atlantic Section.


When Charles “Bernie” Dennison began with the Howard County Youth Program (HCYP) in 1982, he set in motion more than three decades of outstanding service to youth sports in the county. Bernie has served many roles with HYCP, from coach to director. On early Saturday mornings, he has tended to fields and worked to provide scholarships to at-risk student athletes. In 1992, he founded the Howard Youth Basketball Association, a Friday program that at times has had more than 2,000 children participating. That same year, he began one of the first summer basketball programs in the area, the High Flyer Camp at Centennial High School. Mr. Dennison has also coached AAU basketball and helped organize the first AAU tournament in the county.


To Allen Fleming, sports are a vehicle to prepare boys and girls for the rest of their lives. He cherishes the moment when a 10-year-old he once coached, who is now a college graduate and teacher, sneaks up behind him on the sidelines and gives him a bear hug. He loves hearing a well-dressed young man on Capitol Hill recognize his old coach and says, “Hello.” Mr. Fleming is a Pittsburgh native who moved to Howard County and became a County athletic participant, referee, parent, coach and much more. In 1993 he began an independent baseball team, the Columbia Angels, which he coached for five years. The following year he became president and coach for the Howard County Trojans Youth Football (now called the Terps). In 1999, he became the founder, director and coach of the CCC Warriors Football program and helped develop a new league, the Central Maryland Football and Cheer (CMFC). The CMFC merged to become the Mid-Maryland Football and Cheer League, the largest youth football and cheerleading league in Maryland.

During Howard County First Tee program’s infancy, Vernon Gray would witness first-hand when each child successfully hit their golf ball into the air off a tee. To see their joy and their parents’ excitement was validation enough for his hard work in bringing the program to the county. While serving as a member of the National First Tee Advisory Board in 1997, Mr. Gray secured a $100,000 grant to begin a First Tee program in Howard County, one of the first six worldwide (there are now more than 600 First Tee programs worldwide). Mr. Gray made Fairway Hills the home of the program and what once served fewer than 100 kids now serves more than 600 participants each year. As a member of the Howard County Council, he strongly supported, advocated, and voted for the building of the Timber at Troy Golf Course.


Rockburn Branch Park teams with athletic events on trails, courts and sports fields. Art McGinnis envisioned such a sight when he set out to get the infrastructure that county’s recreational sports needed. Mr. McGinnis co-founded the Elkridge Adult Athletic Association in 1983 and later became its co-director and president. He led a community effort and worked tirelessly to build the fields and lights. The first achievements were the ball diamonds, on which Mr. McGinnis played the first softball game. Next the multipurpose fields and lights, on which Mr. McGinnis coached the first nighttime lacrosse game. In addition to being an advocate for upgrading the infrastructure, he has coached hundreds of youngsters in lacrosse, softball, basketball, and soccer. Mr. McGinnis also served as the first president of the Howard County Recreation Alliance.

When the Special Olympics of Howard County looked like it would become inactive in 1998, Marilyn Miceli and three other parent volunteers formed a leadership team to ensure it would continue for years to come. It was one of many acts during her two decades of service to the organization that has ensured it has not only survived, but thrived. Ms. Miceli became a certified volunteer in 1994 and was named assistant director, in 2000. She organized Howard County’s first Special Olympics softball tournament, now the state’s premier Special Olympics softball competition. She is the chairperson for the annual fundraiser, the Inspiration Walk, which has raised more than $900,000 since 2002. In 1999, Special Olympics Maryland honored Marilyn as Volunteer of the Year. She continues to volunteer 35 hours a week; and has already volunteered over 22,620 hours.