The next football season will mark the 45th in the history of the Bellwood-Antis Youth Football League, and the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame is recognizing the league's founder.
Harold "Bud" Grazier, who formed the league in 1969, will receive the Hall's Community Service Award posthumously during the Hall of Fame's induction ceremony Saturday, April 26 at the Blair County Convention Center.
Despite being confined to a wheelchair after he was injured in a swimming accident in 1959, Grazier not only was the driving force behind the BAYFL, he coached the North Side Red Devils until his passing in 2002 at the age of 65.
"Bud made a very significant contribution to Bellwood football," veteran B-A coach John Hayes said. "The kids in the youth program were always prepared and enthusiastic. He didn't let his [lack of] mobility affect his passion for the kids or the league."
In addition to the participation of more than 100 football players per year, nearly as many cheerleaders also took part in the league.
Grazier's candidacy for the award was spearheaded by Al Montanaro of Bellwood, who characterized Grazier's "outstanding life-long contribution to the youth football program."
Despite his disability, "He never fell into self-pity and was always an inspiration," Montanaro said.
Grazier's award will be accepted by his grandson, Travis Hammaker.
"Our family is very excited," Hammaker said. "It means a lot to us and to Bellwood. He did a lot for the community. He worked really hard to get the program started, and he put a lot of time and dedication into the kids. Playing ability didn't matter: He got the best out of every kid."
Grazier is the Hall's ninth Community Service Award recipient, joining John Conlon (Altoona Parochial League), John Robertson (Altoona Boxing Club), Tom Stout (Kelley Federation), Harry Sickler (Tyrone Monogram Club), Skip Dry (Mansion Park Summer Basketball League), The Miracle League of Blair County, Sue Kovensky (Hollidaysburg YMCA Women's Basketball League) and Ken Koronowski, founder of the Altoona Area Youth Hockey Association.
He is the first to be recognized posthumously.
"Bud Grazier is one of the most respected people in Blair County sports - for what and how he contributed and for his long tenure, " Hall of Fame President Neil Rudel said. "Even though he passed away, the chance to recognize him and his work with the Bellwood-Antis Youth Football League, despite a significant physical challenge, was totally embraced by our board."
Set for induction April 26 are former Lehigh wrestler national tennis champion Karen Gallagher, ex-Lehigh wrestling standout Jason Kutz, top distance runner Dave Patterson, past Golden Gloves boxing champion Tom Wilt and former Fordham basketball and baseball standout Len Zandy, who will be honored posthumously.
The Bishop Guilfoyle High School boys basketball team of 1966-67, which won the Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association championship, is the team honoree.
Penn State football coach James Franklin will serve as the evening's featured speaker and honored guest. The Hall of Fame will also be honoring its outgoing president, Dave Andrews.
Tickets are priced at $85 each or $850 for tables of 10. Checks can be made payable to the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame and mailed to P.O. Box 162, Altoona, PA 16602.
For ticket information, call 515-3527.