The Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, the only community based Hall of Fame in the country, was chartered in 1962. The next year charters were issued for four regions, Central, Eastern, Northern and Western that now have 30 chapters serving more than 300 communities throughout the state.
“Only the Central Chapter retained its original name that now includes all of Lebanon County, the western edge of Berks County and eastern edge of Dauphin County and has the second largest membership with 519 members as of the end of 2019,” said chapter president Dave Bentz. “We have two major events a year. The first one in May is the Prayer Breakfast, which unfortunately because of the coronavirus outbreak, had to be cancelled. For that event, a male and female student-athlete is nominated by the athletic directors of all the county high schools plus Tulpehocken and Conrad Weiser in Berks County and Hershey and Milton Hershey in Dauphin County, for the C.S. “Pop” Kelchner award. The winners of that award are honored, along with the male and female Henry Wilder Collegiate Athletes recipients, at the November Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.”
The Central Chapter’s initial inductee in 1963 was Jim Thorpe and as of 2019, 320 men and women have been inducted with more than 30 also inducted into the PA Sports Hall of Fame.
“Members submit names and biographies about the person’s sports participation that is reviewed by a committee to determine that the proper criteria have been met to go on the ballot,” said Bentz. “Those who are approved go on the ballot that is mailed to every paid member to vote to determine the five or six individuals to be honored that year. A similar voting method is held to vote on the state’s inductees. Chapter members can also nominate individuals or groups for the Community Service and Courageous Athlete Awards.”
Recent groups that have received the Community Service Award include 5th Ward Athletic Club, Rails for Trails and Sweep the Streets.
“The individuals would be people who devoted many years and thousands of hours as a coach or league official for kid’s programs like Tom Starry, who was the first recipient in 1969, Gus Deraco, Walt Long, Richard Meily and Glenn Beidler,” Bentz said. “The Courageous Athlete recognition goes to an individual who has overcome their obstacles and gone on to compete in various sports activities in various ways. Past winners include Steve Danz, Dave Lehman and Steve Nelson.”
“It’s important for people to understand that both men and women are inducted into the Central and State Halls of Fame whether it is for a career as a player, coach, administrator or official, Bentz continued. “That means it is not just the football, baseball and basketball participants but also other sports like swimming, golf, track and auto racing.”
He concluded his remarks saying, “We are here to recognize the accomplishments of people in our community in the realm of athletics in any way.”
The local chapter’s dues between 1963 and 2018 were $5 but had to be increased to $10 in 2019 due to the rising postage and other costs over that 56 year period.
Anyone interested in more information about the Central Chapter can visit the website at centralchapter.wordpress.com or contact George Gerber at 717-867-2515.