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2017 Birdland Community Heroes

The Orioles Birdland Community Heroes program honors and recognizes community heroes who inspire us through their spirited commitment to extend a hand in charity, service, hope, and harmony. This recognition honors the heroism of members of our extended Orioles community from all walks of life, occupations, and diverse backgrounds living in our region, our country, and abroad, who have distinguished themselves by selflessly working or volunteering in fields that care for, serve, teach, protect, and improve the lives of others, around the corner or around the globe, who are most in need.

The program honors designated Birdland Community Heroes for every weekend home game throughout the season. Selected honorees each received four game tickets, VIP parking, an award medal, and the opportunity be featured during an in-game ceremony on the video board at the conclusion of the fifth inning. During each Birdland Americana Weekend, the Orioles continued the tradition of celebrating American principles and ideals with the playing of classic, American songs during the seventh-inning stretch including "This Land Is Your Land" on Fridays, "America, The Beautiful" on Saturdays, and "God Bless America" on Sundays. Below, meet our 2017 Birdland Heroes and seventh-inning stretch performers.

Birdland Americana Weekend - September 22-24, 2017

Friday, September 22

Chief Herman Williams, Jr.; for dedicating his life to serving, protecting, and empowering Baltimore residents and their communities. For nearly 50 years, Chief Williams proudly served in the city's fire department, becoming Baltimore City's first African American fire chief in 1992. In his current role as Chairman of the Board for MECU, and through his work with the MECU Foundation and Living Classrooms, Chief Williams has helped to strengthen communities and inspire young people to achieve their full potential, awarding dozens of college scholarships to local youth both through his personal and nonprofit endeavors.

Saturday, September 23

Asya Bussie; for her commitment to building a better Baltimore. Bussie, a former WNBA player, started the nonprofit Be More Inc. to help Baltimore's youth. The organization's leadership team and volunteers have created various initiatives to achieve their mission, including adopting a road that they clean four times a year, hosting basketball clinics, and providing food, clothing, and school supplies to people in need.

Victoria McGrath's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Sunday, September 24

Sande Riesett; for her ongoing efforts to end animal abuse. In 2011, Riesett launched the "Show Your Soft Side" campaign, which features celebrities and athletes with their pets, in an effort to teach kids that compassion is a strength, not a weakness. Over the past six years, Soft Side has partnered with over 150 celebrities nationwide, including Manny Machado and Buck Showalter, appearing in schools across the country and raising over half a million dollars for the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Inc. (BARCS) through its annual Pawject Runway event.

Chelsea Herdt's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Birdland Americana Weekend - September 1-3, 2017

Friday, September 1

Dr. Ashley Munchel, University of Maryland Medical System; for her care and compassion in the community. Munchel is a lead physician with the pediatric cancer department at UMMS. She serves on the Horizon Day Camp Advisory Board, where she is an advocate and liaison between UMMS and Horizon. She is actively involved with community activities, including HorizonWALKS at Oriole Park and the Horizon Day Camp Summer Dreams benefit.

Dije Coxson's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Saturday, September 2

Sean Callahan for his years of service on behalf of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Callahan started serving in Central America, continued on to Africa, and spent many years in India, working closely with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity on the streets of Calcutta. Callahan has helped people affected by floods, droughts, cyclones, and violence. He survived a terrorist attack in Sri Lanka, worked in Afghanistan during and after the Taliban's rule, and now as president of CRS, he leads one of the largest humanitarian agencies in the U.S.

Patrick Mason's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Sunday, September 3

Alex O'Bara and Ashley Chandlern; Alex, a Nursing Supervisor, and Ashley an Intensive Care Unit Nurse at Medstar Franklin Medical Center, for their commitment to caring for others, especially their quick thinking and decisive actions that helped save the life of a man who was found not breathing outside of the emergency department entrance one night following the end of their shifts.

Rolando Sanz's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Birdland Americana - August 28, 2017

The late Dr. Angela Brodie from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM); for her commitment to breast cancer research. Through her research, Dr. Brodie discovered aromatase inhibitors, a treatment that has saved millions of lives worldwide. Accepting the honor on Dr. Brodie's behalf will be her husband, Dr. Harry Brodie.

Carolyn Choate, a breast cancer survivor treated by Dr. Brodie; for her efforts to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. Choate and her daughter recently completed a 300-mile kayaking journey in honor of Dr. Brodie. Choate's goal is to help fund the next generation of breast cancer researchers and to recruit the next generation of cancer research supporters.

Birdland Americana Weekend - August 18-20, 2017

Friday, August 18

Lynn Coffland, for providing opportunities for combat-wounded veterans to regain their physical and mental health through the Catch A Lift Fund. Coffland started the nonprofit organization in honor of her brother who was killed in action in Afghanistan while serving in the U.S. Army. Catch A Lift helps veterans recover, rehabilitate, & reintegrate through physical fitness.

Track A Capella 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Saturday, August 19

Amy Crone, for helping Maryland farmers provide healthy food to Maryland residents. As the Founder and Executive Director of the Maryland Farmers Market Association (MDFMA), Crone connects members of our community with Maryland farmers markets and provides resources to managers, farmers, and consumers. 

Courtney White Gilbert 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Sunday, August 20

Richard "Dick" Coppage, is being recognized for his dedication to the Oriole Advocates' Cardboard to LeatherTM collection. After retiring five years ago, Coppage has collected over 1,000 items for underprivileged children in the Caribbean through yard sales, thrift shops, friends, and family. 

Owings Mills H.S. Quartet 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Birdland Americana Weekend - August 4-6, 2017

Friday, August 4

Megan Davis, for providing a caring and safe home for foster children through KidsPeace. Davis is a foster parent who offers safety and stability to the children placed in her home and makes every effort to ensure that the youth placed with her are involved and accepted. She has formed a strong, supportive system that has been central in assisting in the positive progression for the children placed with her.

St Martin's Quartet 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Saturday, August 5

Tammy Conner, for devoting her time to helping critically-ill children and their families through the Casey Cares Foundation. Conner spends many hours each week assisting with a variety of duties including patient applications, mailings for events and donations, and preparations for the annual Gala, Golf Tournament, and 5K race. She has volunteered more than 2,000 hours of service over the past four years.

Victoria McGrath's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Sunday, August 6

Matt Prestbury, for his dedication to educating, advocating, and providing resources for fathers in Baltimore City. He is the founder of a nonprofit organization focused on fatherhood and created a Facebook group called Black Fathers which now has over 27,000 members worldwide. He has spent 10 years organizing events to bring fathers and families together, including the Dads on Duty Program at Elmer Henderson Elementary School in Baltimore City.

Matthew Purnell's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Birdland Americana Weekend - July 21-23, 2017

Friday, July 21

P.F.C. Codey Kluczynski, for his dedication to serving our country as a member of the U.S. Army and as a volunteer in his local community with the Baltimore County Police Explorers and the Active Honor Salute Program at The Hospice of the Chesapeake.

Miranda Soong's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Saturday, July 22

Ed Pfaff, for helping adults with developmental disabilities learn and appreciate the game of baseball and softball. Each summer, Pfaff guides over 40 participants to learn the sport of baseball and softball by working on fundamentals at Lutherville Laboratory.

Mandi Michael and Lizzy Jackson Fleischman's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Sunday, July 23

Earle Freedman, for years of public service benefiting Maryland residents. In 2016, Freedman retired from his job as director of bridges for the Maryland State Highway Administration after 66 years, making him the state's longest-serving employee.

Brittany Cozza's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Birdland Americana Weekend - July 14-16, 2017

Friday, July 14

Jennifer Cox, for her dedication to providing healthy food and fitness resources for children living in Baltimore-area homeless shelters. Cox founded Empower4Life, a nonprofit organization that provides health education, fitness activities, nutritious food, and other necessities to children living in homeless shelters. Cox was recognized as a CNN Hometown Hero this past June.

Pat Mason's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Saturday, July 15

Jack O'Hara, for his commitment to the Maryland Food Bank (MFB). For more than seven years, O'Hara has spent countless hours and days helping to coordinate all volunteers in the Maryland Food Bank's Charles T. Bauer Community Kitchen. In 2016, he helped to package more than 127,000 pounds of food, and continued his work by tutoring and assisting MFB program students.

Tom Zepp 's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Sunday, July 16

Assistant Fire Chief Darren O. Ware, for his courageous efforts to save lives. In the spring of 2016, Ware and a Good Samaritan helped to rescue a woman from her burning car. Ware was named the American Legion's "2017 National Firefighter of the Year" and received the Prince George's County Fire Department's Gold Medal of Valor for his actions. Ware has been a firefighter in Prince George's County for 22 years.

Bob McDonald's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Birdland Americana Weekend - June 30-July 2, 2017

Friday, June 30

Heather Harvison, for her dedication for providing opportunities for young women from Baltimore as the Founder and Executive Director of Sisters Circle. For the past 15 years, Harvison has paired young women entering middle school with volunteer mentors. She was named one of The Daily Record's 2014 Top 100 Women and she was honored with the Junior League's Woman of Distinction Award in 2016.

Dije Coxson's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Saturday, July 1

Makenzie Greenwood, for her passion for helping to fight hunger in her community. After hearing about the Little Free Pantry project, Greenwood made it her mission to create Hampstead's very own Little Free Pantry. She partnered with her church, and a local scouting group to build the pantry, which works on an anonymous give-and-take system. While balancing school and various extracurricular activities, she still manages to solicit donations, and check on the pantry regularly. It has already helped more than 100 individuals and families.

James Gann's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Sunday, July 2

O.J. Brigance, for sharing his perseverance and love of life with others who suffer from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Brigance was a longtime football player who won championships with both the Baltimore Stallions in the CFL, and the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL. He now serves as the Senior Advisor to Player Development for the Ravens. In 2007, after his ALS diagnosis, Brigance and his family created The Brigance Brigade Foundation, which works to equip, encourage, and empower people living with ALS.

PEARL's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Birdland Americana Weekend - June 16-18, 2017

Friday, June 16

Steve Morgan, for his dedication to The Arc Baltimore, an organization that support adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Morgan, who will soon retire after more than 45 years of service, has helped to grow the organization, which now helps more than 6,000 adults and children per year through employment programs and family services. 

Chris Urquiaga's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Saturday, June 17

Dick Blackistone, for his volunteer service with The Oyster Recovery Partnership. Blackistone has spent more than seven years and over 3,200 hours collecting oyster shells from local restaurants and educating the public at outreach events. He is an important part of local shell recycling operations, where he helps reclaim used shells, which then are cleaned, aged, seeded, and used to create oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay.

Lustre Quartet's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Sunday, June 18

Joseph T. Jones, Jr., for his role in developing and growing the Center for Urban Families. CFUF is a Baltimore nonprofit established to empower low-income families by enhancing both the ability of women and men to contribute to their families as wage earners and of men to fulfill their roles as fathers. Jones is now a national leader in workforce development, fatherhood, and family services programming.

Bill Nesbitt's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Birdland Americana Weekend - June 2-4, 2017

Friday, June 2

Chuck Piel, for his volunteer service in support of Helping Up Mission, a homeless shelter for men in Baltimore. For more than 24 years, Piel has served the most vulnerable members of our community, first as a volunteer and eventually as a member of the Board of Directors and Board President. Piel has helped grow the capacity of the shelter, which now offers physical, clinical, medical, educational, and vocational services, and support to more than 500 men in residence.

Vincent Sandroni's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Saturday, June 3

Laura Clary, for her work with victims of sexual assault. A nurse at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Clary works with the Towson hospital's Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and domestic violence programs, where she cares for victims of sexual assault, child abuse, rape, human trafficking, intimate partner violence, and domestic violence. She manages a team of 13 forensic nurses and five victim advocates who see more than 400 patient cases a year.

Gracie Schram's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Sunday, June 4

Lemuel Thomas, for his support of youth baseball through Baltimore City's Department of Recreation & Parks over the past three decades. Thomas is a founding member of the Department's Play Baseball Program, an initiative that teaches the fundamentals of baseball to local youth and is in part funded by Manny Machado's annual BaseBOWL Tournament and the Orioles Charitable Foundation. Lemuel recently helped to organize a league at the Robert C. Marshall Recreation Center.

Melissa Crowhurst's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Birdland Americana Weekend - May 19-21, 2017

Friday, May 19

Dr. Kala Visvanathan, for her dedication to preventing both breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Dr. Visvanathan is a cancer epidemiologist and a practicing medical oncologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine. She serves as a mentor to the next generation of cancer researchers and clinicians and is working with the John Fetting Fund for Breast Cancer Prevention, the recipients of the proceeds of this year's Mother's Day Jersey Auction.

Saturday, May 20

Kim Coble, for 25 years of service and leadership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). Coble is CBF's Vice President of Environmental Protection and Restoration, where she directs all policy, advocacy, and restoration efforts through the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In addition, she serves on the boards of Agro-Ecology, Maryland Leadership Workshops, and Restore America's Estuaries.

Sunday, May 21

James Barnes, for his passion for helping the poor and homeless get back on their feet. In addition to working at Oriole Park, Barnes is a volunteer and leader for Health Care for the Homeless, participating in a committee that guides the agency on how it can better serve the community. Once lacking a job and a home himself, he shares his story with diverse audiences through the local Speakers' Bureau to raise awareness about homelessness.

Birdland Americana Weekend - May 5-7, 2017

Friday, May 5

Mario Berninzoni, for helping the poor and homeless find emergency, transitional, and permanent affordable housing and services. Berninzoni has been working with Arundel House of Hope in Anne Arundel County as its Executive Director for more than 17 years. He has spent his professional career helping and supporting the homeless.

Watch Courtney Gilbert's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Saturday, May 6

Colonel Raymond Fang, for his leadership at the US Air Force Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills (C-STARS)-Baltimore. Fang, an active military member since 1995, cared for our Nation's Wounded Warriors at the U.S. Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and was appointed Chief of the Trauma Program in 2009.

Tom Zepp's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Sunday, May 7

John Kampes, for his dedication to local youth sports. Kampes is a coach for multiple youth baseball teams, and he is also the executive director for the Cecil County YMCA. He was critically injured in a car accident last year and has been committed to getting back on the field with his teams this spring in order to continue to be a great role model and mentor for his players.

Cantor Thom King's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Birdland Americana Weekend - April 21-23, 2017

Friday, April 21

Major General Linda Singh, for her leadership, perseverance, service, and commitment to mentoring local youth. An Adjutant General in the Maryland Army National Guard, Singh has served since 1981, including two years of service in Afghanistan. Once a homeless, high school runaway who survived abuse and sexual assault in her youth, she now mentors young women and has been inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.

Watch Courtney Gilbert's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Saturday, April 22

Kim Callari, for her tireless work at The Baltimore Station, a residential treatment facility for Homeless Veterans. Callari creates and manages all fundraising activities, special events, and grant writing, and develops and manages communications and public relations activities for the organization.

Watch Michelle Hall's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Sunday, April 23

Stacey Stirmer, for her compassion and commitment to autism awareness and fundraising. Stirmer and her husband, Lloyd, helped to create two fundraising efforts for Autism Speaks - the Course for the Cause and Voices for Autism. Stirmer has also been a volunteer at Gilchrist Hospice Care for the last six years, where she works directly with patients in the inpatient unit as a certified end of life doula.

Watch Maxx Factor's 7th Inning Stretch Performance:

Birdland Americana Weekend - April 7-9, 2017

Friday, April 7

Cathy Young, a registered nurse at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center from Baltimore, for her attentiveness to helping others in medical need both on the job and away from the workplace. She has received the Daisy Award at MedStar for being an extraordinary nurse.

Saturday, April 8

Asma Inge-Hanif, an advanced nurse practitioner from Baltimore, for opening her home to Muslim women and children refugees who were sexually assaulted or victims of domestic violence and ultimately converting her home into a shelter. She also feeds the homeless through her "Chili Bowl Sunday" program and provides physicals to individuals wishing to participate in the Special Olympics.

Sunday, April 9

Thomas Moore, a middle-school student from Bowie, Md., who grew out his hair to donate it to cancer patients. His donation helped to provide three wigs for cancer patients who had lost their hair while undergoing treatment.