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Gaither and Rebecca Beard to Receive Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award

Gaither and Rebecca Beard

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Aug. 2, 2006) – Gaither and Rebecca Beard have dedicated much of their lives to teaching sports and sportsmanship to the inner city youth of Richmond, Va., and Little League International will recognize their determination and clear vision on behalf of the Urban Initiative with the presentation of the Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award at the 60th Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

“Gaither and Rebecca have made a lifelong commitment to Richmond’s inner city youth,” David James, director of the Little League Urban Initiative, said. “They have made sure no child has ever had to pay a fee to participate in Little League by providing uniforms, equipment and even baseball shoes. Their love of children and baseball has helped generations stay involved in sports, and go on to live productive lives.”

Both retired school teachers, the Beard’s dedication extends far beyond the playing field, according to comments provided by members of the Virginia District 5 Little League staff. Gaither is described as a father figure who would often meet children one hour before the game to provide academic tutoring. He has stressed the need for education first and sports second, along with the importance of being respectful. He is well known for saying, “Son, I just want you to do your best.”

“This has been a group effort,” Gaither Beard said. “When we started (North Richmond Little League) kids had a real interest in playing baseball. In the last few years, kids have been losing interest, and now that’s the challenge. Our league is not trying to train professional baseball players, because my wife and I have always stressed the idea of education first and playing baseball second. Any time you receive an award, especially one that comes from working with children it is a great honor and very gratifying.”

In 1988, the Beards were part of a group of local volunteers who formed North Richmond Little League. Each year since chartering with Little League Baseball and Softball, the league has fielded no less than four teams. Over the 2004 Memorial Day Weekend, one of the league’s regular-season teams was invited to Little League International to participate in the inaugural Urban Initiative Jamboree.

“The Beards have been staples of the Richmond youth sports community for more than 30 years and Mrs. Beard currently serves as president of the North Richmond Little League,” Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “Gaither and Rebecca were the driving force behind providing the children of Richmond with the opportunity to play Little League Baseball and Softball and be involved in the Challenger Division. In recognition of their inspiration and belief in the ideals of the Little League program, Little League International is honored to present them with this award.”

Little League International created the Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of the vital volunteer service being performed by thousands of dedicated people in urban settings around the country. This award annually acknowledges an adult volunteer involved with a Little League program participating in the Urban Initiative. The recipient would have provided a positive Little League experience for the children and adults within a local league’s metropolitan neighborhood or community.

Mr. Paster is the president of the Little League Foundation Board of Trustees, is executive vice president, public relations/public affairs, at WPP Group, and was chairman of “A World of Opportunity - Little League Baseball Capital Campaign for the Future.” Mrs. Paster is director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

The Little League Urban Initiative has enjoyed success in nearly 75 cities since it began in 2000. More than 200 local Little Leagues in the U.S. are part of the Urban Initiative. Through 2005, the program stimulated the addition of 200 teams and more than 2,200 players. For more information on the Little League Urban Initiative, log on to: www.littleleague.org.

Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest organized youth sports program, with nearly 2.7 million players and 1 million adult volunteers in every U.S. state and scores of other countries.