DALTON, Mass. -- On Sunday afternoon, 25 individuals and three teams will be inducted as members of the inaugural class of the Dalton CRA Athletic Hall of Fame.
That seems like a big number. But it is only the tip of the iceberg.
“We had our nominating committee gather nominations from the community and do research,” said Dustin Belcher, the CRA’s director of recreation and a member of the hall’s executive committee. “When I say nominees, I don’t mean the inductees. They came up with over 180.
“Since the announcement [of the first class], we’ve received another 60 to 70. Right now, we have over 225 in the database for future classes. … Each person in that database is worthy.”
The first group will be inducted in a ticketed ceremony on Sunday afternoon at Wahconah Country Club.
But most of the first class will be on hand Friday night for a more public recognition, at half-time of the Pittsfield-Wahconah football game in Dalton.
In between, on Saturday, there will be another public event, at 7 p.m. at the Stationery Factory, where the Baseball in the Berkshires museum, in conjunction with the CRA Hall of Fame, will present Sliding Back Home, a meet and greet for the inductees.
Some of the inaugural class are well known to any casual sports fan in Berkshire County, people like former Major League Baseball general managers Jim and Dan Duquette and former MLB stars Turk Wendell and Jeff Reardon. Some, like longtime youth sports coach John Donovan, are better known in the Central Berkshire community itself.
All have a common denominator.
“It’s a community hall of fame,” Belcher said. “It’s not just a Wahconah [Regional High School] hall of fame. You must have gone to school or resided in one of the seven towns that make up the Central Berkshire Regional School District.
“The idea is that the CRA is where they funnelled youth sports through the years. We’ve been here almost 100 years. That’s the reason this is the perfect home for the Hall of Fame.”
And that is why Belcher took the idea to CRA Executive Director Alison Peters a year ago. In February, he formed an executive committee with Gary Campbell Jr., Joanne Dowling, Jackie McLaughlin and Pat West. Add in the nominating committee, and more than 20 volunteers have had a hand in putting together the hall over the last seven months, Belcher said.
“The nomination committee was critically important,” Belcher said. “They did so much work and so much research and pulling names together. We had people nominated from the 1930s. The bylaws say you have to have graduated high school at least 10 years ago, but the nominations go back a lot farther.”
The CRA Hall of Fame’s mission is twofold: to preserve the community’s rich athletic tradition and to help youngsters write new chapters in that history by offering financial support to youth sports.
“Through the process of creating the Hall of Fame, we’ve been trying to raise funds,” Belcher said. “The goal is lofty in terms of what we had to raise to make the room happen, the event happen, have money to give back to the kids and make sure it’s all sustainable.
“A lot of halls of fame ask inductees to fund raise. We did not do that. It’s not a requirement to be inducted. We gave them the opportunity to donate, and many did, but our goal was through sponsorships and community donations to raise enough money to get it off the ground and make it sustainable.”
This weekend’s festivities are designed with an eye to giving back to area youngsters by allowing them to be inspired by the accomplishments of the inductees.
“At the event at the Stationery Factory [Saturday night], Jim [Duquette], Dan [Duquette], Turk [Wendell] and Jeff [Reardon] will be there to sign autographs,” Belcher said. “We’re really trying to reach out to get the youth teams to come to that event.”
The large group of inductees in the first class ensures that there are plenty of stories and memorabilia to engage visitors to the CRA Hall of Fame in year one. But don’t expect every class to be quite this large.
“We made a determination going in that we were going to have 15 athletes, five coaches, three contributors and three teams, and we weren’t going to waiver from that,” Belcher said. “Year two it’s going to be a little smaller. Year three, we’ll reduce it again a little. By year four, we’ll hold the line.”
The inaugural class of the Dalton CRA Athletic Hall of Fame includes:
TEAMS -- 1983 Wahconah football team, 1986 Wahconah girls soccer team, 1987 Wahconah boys basketball team.
CONTRIBUTORS -- Ed and Arlene Cormier; Dalton Benefit Association; and Jim and Bunny Whitman.
COACHES -- Gary Campbell Sr., John Donovan, Ed Ladley, Robert “Boog” Powell and James Rivers.
ATHLETES -- Patrick Bramer, Edward Culverwell, Dan Duquette, Jim Duquette, Patrick Duquette, Kevin Hunt, Rick Kovacs, John Kovacs, Derek Lombard, Keith Poopor, Jeff Reardon, Abbie West, Meghan Vaughan, Turk Wendell and Matt Whitcomb.
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