Applauding Youth Sports Officials

Applauding Youth Sports Officials

Doug Calhoun

Ashland Beacon

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     Most days, in communities across the Ashland area, courts and fields are filled with

energetic boys and girls. The sidelines and bleachers are crowded with supportive, hopeful

parents, grandparents and siblings. Every season is accompanied by its own sports. Every sport

requires its own coaches. The uniforms change, the equipment varies.

     Our area is rich with opportunities for our kids to compete in youth sports. Every sport

requires referees, officials, and umpires. Fortunately, we are blessed with plenty of men and

women who are willing to fill these demanding and rewarding responsibilities. Some are

modestly compensated while others volunteer their evenings and weekends.


     Veteran youth official Tim Wallin is a strong example of one of the many altruistic youth

officials we are blessed with right here at home. Wallin began officiating youth sports when he

was eighteen calling youth church basketball games at Oakview Elementary. When he was

twenty-one he was refereeing for the first organization that served grade school basketball

hopefuls at the YMCA. This league eventually became what we know now as the Ashland Youth

Basketball league. Back then, Wallin was handsomely compensated two and a half dollars per

game. Meager pay didn’t deter his love for kids and sports as he is now sixty-eight years old

and still billowing the whistle fifty years later as he continues with the AYBL, middle school and

varsity boys and girls basketball.

     Wallin didn’t limit his generosity and talents to basketball. Through the years he has also

served as an umpire in Minor Little league, Major Little League, Little League Softball, and Babe

Ruth Baseball.

     Wallin speaks of how rewarding officiating grade school kids can be. “When you ref a

game, especially in grade school, you are helping the coaches teach the players where to stand

in certain situations, such as free throws and in-bound passes.” Wallin’s infectious smile is

evidence that he takes joy in his dual role as referee and coach. One would think that one of the

most prominent complaints that a youth league official would have would be jeers and heckling

from overly competitive parents and other spectators, but Wallin says that the biggest

challenges come from getting in position to make the right call and concentrating on not

becoming a spectator and stepping out of his role as referee.  He says that he feels most

rewarded when they smile after making a basket and when they smile back at him when he

emphatically tells them, “Yes, you can do it!”

     One parent, Erin Womack, recently took notice of Wallin’s good will when she noted his

treatment of her son Oliver on the court. “I’ve seen Mr.Wallin take time to give a few words of

advice and teach kids at several games so far this season. Their little ears are absorbing what

adults say, and taking time to explain things on their level is so important. Oliver said he (Wallin)

asked him if he was nervous, then explained where his feet should be and what to do after each

foul shot.”

     Wallin’s story is an extraordinary example of giving of yourself, going above your calling,

and being an example of kindness in the sometimes challenging world of youth sports. But, our

area is fortunate to have lots of “Tim Wallin’s” with great hearts and noble intentions as they

serve our kids. The next time you attend a youth sporting event, return the kindness and take a

second to shake a referee or an umpire’s hand and thank them for their generosity and

dedication. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to do this in front of your child so they can see that the men

and women with the whistles around their necks enforcing rules, keeping order, and instructing

are partners with you in building quality athletes.

The Power of Love Honored by Boyd County Students

The Power of Love Honored by Boyd County Students

Deidra Bowling-Meade

The Ashland Beacon


   Martin Luther King once said, “I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.” How do you interpret that statement?  Do you find it true?  

   Three local elementary students from Boyd County School District made an impact on the Kentucky Heritage Council for their interpretation of King’s quote by showcasing how love really can make a difference. Fifth grader Allie Jackson from Cannonsburg Elementary, fourth grader Sophie Griffith and fifth grader Peyton Moore from Ponderosa Elementary were recognized this month in Frankfort for their art submissions to the 2022 Martin Luther King Student Art-Essay-Poetry Awards put on by the Kentucky Heritage Council.  Griffith and Moore both received second place for their art and Jackson received third place. 

   These students are part of the the Lion Academy taught by Lisa Wiler and Kim Wilbur.  Wilbur stated that the “Lion Academy is one of the services provided to students identified as Gifted and Talented in academic areas per Kentucky state guidelines. We focus on creative and critical thinking skills through hands-on activities and authentic experiences. Our 4th and 5th grade students attend Lion Academy one day a week, while other grades rotate one day a month.”  The project was perfect for these students to showcase their talents in artistic ability, as well as apply critical thinking by interpreting King’s quote.

   Jackson drew two people of different races shaking hands inside a heart with the world around the heart.  On the outside of the circle, she put the quote by Martin Luther King Jr.

   Jackson  remarked, “I decided to draw this because I thought it captured the theme and it had a message. Honoring Martin Luther King is important to me because it means giving him credit for what he did to fight for equality.”

   Griffith drew an American flag with a black and white broken heart put back together with a bandage.  “I wanted to represent that black and white people needed to be cured with love,” commented Griffith.

   Moore drew a person with special powers fighting a monster of hatred.  Love was the powerful force that destroyed the monster.  Moore exclaimed, “People are good and can find the greatness inside of them.  If one person believes in love and happiness, it can make a difference. Don’t go with the pack. Martin Luther King, Jr. had such futuristic guidance to problems.  His words matter!  What we do matters. I wanted to capture that in my art.”

   These three students received an invitation to be recognized at the Awards Ceremony  in Frankfort, KY at the Kentucky Historical Society on January 12.  They enjoyed their trip and experience while there.  Jackson remarked, “It felt amazing to be recognized for my artwork.  I was excited about the opportunity to go to Frankfort, and I enjoyed it very much.” Griffith was nervous about being recognized, but she said she was “excited and honored to go.”  This was Griffith’s first trip to Frankfort.  “We got a private tour of the Capitol, and I got to see my grandfather’s picture.”  Griffith’s grandfather is Larry Ball, who had his photography selected to be on display for six months in the Capitol.  Obviously, artistic vision must run in the family!  Moore was the most enthusiastic of all. Moore declared, “It was super duper awesome!  I love all of history.  I got to see a big grand staircase that is a replica in the Governor’s Mansion.  It was beautiful!”  

   These three students made Boyd County proud not only through their art, but through their way of thinking and conduct.  The future looks brighter with kids like Allie Jackson, Sophie Griffith and Peyton Moore making a difference.  Let’s join them in their vision for making the world brighter through love.    

   The words of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” come to mind:

“Imagine all the people

Livin' life in peace


You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will be as one”

   The words from John Lennon’s song remind us of a dream this world is still pursuing.  If we simply love, it can make a difference.

Young Scholar Shines Bright with Outstanding Academic Record & Performance

Young Scholar Shines Bright with Outstanding Academic Record & Performance

Deidra Bowling-Meade

The Ashland Beacon

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   The renowned English physicist Stephen Hawking once said, “Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” Not everyone is destined to become a scientist; however, Hannah Laney is on course to impact the world of science and her community.  Laney is a senior at Paul G. Blazer High School in Ashland and has been studying at the Gatton Academy in Bowling Green, Ky for the last two years. Laney has set an unprecedented bar with her current academic achievements receiving a perfect 36 score on the ACT, National Merit Scholar Semifinalist and most recently being named a Top 300 Teen Scientists through the Regeneron Science Talent Search.

   Laney has always strived to do her best in everything and set high expectations for herself since a young age.  Anita Laney, who is Hannah’s mother, remarked, “Hannah was very inquisitive as a child. She was always asking questions and had a different way of solving problems.  She preferred reading books to toys.  I had the opportunity to be Hannah’s teacher in the Gifted and Talented Program during grade school, which is when she first started loving science.  I vividly remember one conversation that stood out in my mind the most when she was in fourth grade.  The class was talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some responded policeman, teacher, or doctor. Hannah responded, ‘I want to make a difference in the world.’ I knew then that she thought differently on a social/emotional level.”

   In seventh grade, Laney took the ACT for the first time “just to get a feel for the test.” Laney was promised a trip to Universal Studios by her mother if she scored a 33 or higher.  Those bags were quickly packed! That first attempt score was a 34! As a junior, Laney was required by the state to take the test again and scored a 35.  “I was pretty happy with that, but my senior year I took it again and I wasn’t as nervous.  I think that’s what made the difference in getting the perfect score.  Getting a 36 was something I wanted to accomplish.” 

   Laney enjoyed taking math and science courses at Paul Blazer High School.  Her favorite subject was math and learning from math teacher Laura Hackney, who had Laney for Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and AP Calculus. Hackney commented on getting the opportunity to teach Laney, as well as Laney’s academic performance and character: “I am so proud of Hannah for all of her achievements at Gatton Academy.  She is a remarkable young woman and is among the most outstanding students I have ever had the privilege of teaching.  She has an incredible depth of understanding and asks thoughtful and insightful questions to gain understanding of relationships between concepts.  Hannah exemplifies the characteristics of a true scholar, consistently scoring the highest marks in her classes.  She maintains a humble spirit and never acts as though she is any different from other students.  In addition to being a distinguished student, she is an admirable person.  Hannah is an individual with impeccable character, never leaving any question about her integrity.”

   After completing two years at Paul Blazer High School and taking all the science and math courses available, Laney decided to spend her last two years of high school at Gatton Academy. Western Kentucky University’s website described The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science as “Kentucky’s first residential two-year program for gifted and talented juniors and seniors. The Gatton Academy’s students enroll as juniors and are full-time WKU students pursuing their interests in advanced science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Gatton Academy is a recipient of the 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from Insight Into Diversity Magazine and the Innovation Partnership Award from the National Consortium for Secondary STEM Schools.” Laney wanted the opportunity to take her passion of math and science to the next level, conduct research, as well as be with others who shared her interest. At 16 years old, Laney left the comfort of her hometown, parents and friends and traveled 270 miles to start a new venture in Bowling Green.

   Laney quickly transitioned at the Gatton Academy and served in various capacities, such as the Co-President of Math Club, a math peer tutor, and member of the Gatton Bible Study and International Clubs. Laney found her niche and felt more at home when she became a scientific researcher for one of Western Kentucky University's professors. She participated in a summer internship for six weeks as part of her research.  Laney’s research project was titled, "Synthesis of 4d- and 5d-Based Transition Metal Oxides" and mentored by Dr. Jasminka Terzic with WKU Physics & Astronomy. In her research, Laney grew crystals called 4d- and 5d- transition metal oxides in order to measure their properties. These synthesized crystals may potentially advance current technology, such as developing improved methods of data storage. It was this experience that led to Laney being selected for the Regeneron Science Talent Search. 

   The Regeneron Science Talent Search is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. It recognizes and empowers the most promising young scientists who are generating innovative solutions to solve significant global challenges through rigorous research and discoveries. Laney was selected among nearly 2,000 applicants across the U.S. based on her outstanding research, leadership skills, community involvement, commitment to academics, creativity in asking scientific questions, and exceptional promise as a STEM leader demonstrated through her original, independent research project and essays.  Laney was awarded $2,000 for making it to the top 300 students selected. 

   In addition to her perfect ACT score, Laney scored in the top 1% of students in Kentucky who took the PSAT.  This score and her outstanding academic record earned her National Merit Scholar Semifinalist.  Laney will find out if she is a finalist in February. She will also find out at the end of this month if she will be in the top 40 selected for the Regeneron Science Talent Search. Collectively, Science Talent Search alumni have received millions of dollars in scholarships and gone on to be awarded Nobel Prizes, Field Medals, MacArthur Fellowships, and numerous other honors. Laney dreams of being a part of this group. 

   Laney would like to pursue an MD-PhD program where she could have a medical practice and still do medical research through an academic medical center. She has applied at several prestigious schools and is awaiting to see what she is offered before finalizing her decision in March.  Whatever path Laney pursues, success will be sure to follow.  She will continue to make a difference.  Laney’s work ethic and dedication are unmatched. Hannah Laney is bearing the torch of discovery proudly in her quest for knowledge.

   Just remember to follow the advice from physicist Albert Einstein, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Best wishes on a bright future, Hannah Laney!

Hedrick Makes Hometown Proud with Nomination 

Hedrick Makes Hometown Proud with Nomination 

Pamela Hall

Ashland Beacon

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The Appalachian Arts and Entertainment Awards, the “Appy Awards”, were established to honor and recognize the talents of those living in communities along the Appalachian Mountains. The awards celebrate many types of entertainment and art forms from music to the written word, jewelry making to drawing; television and radio personalities to film making, and nearly everything in between.

The Appalachian Region is comprised of 13 states, ranging from Alabama to New York, with our tri-state area being in the heart of the region. It comes as no surprise that Kentucky, and indeed the tri-state area, is well represented among those who are nominated for this year’s Appy Awards.

One such nominee is Ashland native Chad Hedrick, who is nominated for TV Personality for the second consecutive year. He is currently a reporter with WKYT in Lexington.

Hedrick grew up in Ashland and was active in community theatre, among other hobbies, at Ashland Community and Technical College’s Children’s Theatre program, where he earned several leading or prominent roles. He began having an interest in broadcasting while in middle school. Hedrick was a 2013 graduate of Paul Blazer High School and continued his college education at Morehead State University where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Convergent Media in 2016.

Hedrick began his employment career at WSAZ in Huntington, first as a part-time weekend photographer, then working his way up to reporter and weekend anchor. During his time there, he became known for his highlights and features on his hometown of Ashland, Boyd County, and eastern Kentucky, endearing him to many in the viewing audience.

“It’s very special to be able to cover stories in the area where I grew up,” Hedrick commented. “One of my biggest joys is to focus on stories of my hometown and of eastern Kentucky. I have such an invested interest.”

Hedrick spent six years at WSAZ before moving to WKYT in Lexington in January 2021. He is still able to report on the happenings in eastern Kentucky, which is important to him.

“I get messages all the time from eastern Kentucky viewers,” he admitted with the boyish grin that his audience loves. “I have maintained contacts there, of course, and love to tell their stories. It’s my way of giving back to the community.”

You can be sure that his viewers will be voting for him for the TV Personality award.

“It’s an honor to be nominated,” Chad stated humbly. “I appreciate the support. It certainly means a lot to me.”

Voting for the Appy Awards has begun online. To cast your vote, go to

The awards show will be held on March 18 at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg. Tickets are available at

We wish Chad Hedrick the best of luck, not only for the Appy Awards, but with his broadcasting career. He makes his hometown of Ashland very proud!

Seeing Beauty Through the Lens

Seeing Beauty Through the Lens

Boyd County Local tohave PhotographyDisplayed at Capitol
Deidra Bowling-Meade
The Ashland Beacon
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   Through reading an article posted by the Ashland Beacon about photographers contributing to Team Kentucky Gallery, Sheree Griffith, encouraged her father, Larry Ball, to submit one of his landscape photographs.  Gov. Andy Beshear and First Lady Britainy Beshear invited Kentuckians to send photographs that highlighted Kentucky’s people, architecture and natural beauty, as well as showcase their choice of lighting, composition and other artistic qualities.  Ball submitted a photograph he took on a snowy day in Lawrence County, Kentucky of a Methodistchurch among snow covered trees.  Ball found out mid-December that his work was selected and will be on display for six months in the Capitol and on the Team Kentucky Digital Art Gallery from Jan.1 until June 30, 2023.
   Ball took the photograph three years ago when he was driving around admiring the snowy day in Zelda, Kentucky and visiting the old Methodist church he attended as a child.  Ball recalled the old dirt road that he and his sister would walk to get to the church.  His grandparents went to the church in the 1950’s. For Ball, photography is the best way to highlight a memory. Ball declared, “I can’t draw.  I like the way the camera captures what I see. I saw the way the trees looked and the gray tones in the sky and snow.  I saw my picture.  ‘This is perfect,’ I thought as I snapped the picture.”
   Griffith was elated with the news when she found out her father’s photograph was chosen, “I’m very proud of him.  I actually have a copy of it hanging in my home. It's personal because that's where he and his older sister went to church as children. Plus, I love all things winter.  It's probably my favorite of all of his pictures.” Ball was excited, but modest about his photograph being selected, “I’m just an old man who likes to take pictures and see the beauty of the world.” 
   Capturing the beauty of the world in photographs is a talent that not everyone possesses. One must be passionate about the craft and truly see the subject matter.  As American photographer Aaron Siskind once said, “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”
   The beauty Ball captured in the photograph depicted a subject that was close to Ball’s heart, yet will be remembered forever and cherished by all those who visit the Capitol and Digital Gallery in 2023.
   Ball is a self-taught photographer who started taking pictures with a Kodak as his first camera.  He became more serious about photography in 1970 when he was in active duty in the Navy and started using a 35 mm camera. During that time, Ball mainly developed slides of all the countries he visited.  Griffith discussed her father’s hobby with photography saying, “Dad has always been interested in photography.  I remember growing up that he turned part of our garage into a darkroom to develop black and white pictures.  He no longer does that. He loves taking pictures of nature mostly, especially wildflowers. He has thousands and thousands of pictures.” 
   Now, Ball has migrated away from film and into the world of digital photography. Ball found the change to digital photography mostly positive due to not having to wait to see the pictures taken or having to print them all.  As far as all the editing software, Ball considered himself a minimalist. “My editing is sharpen and crop a little, very little. I get the view that I like, and snap the picture.”  Ball admired the work of Randall Sanger, who is a landscape photographer with special emphasis on showcasing the natural beauty of West Virginia.  Ball attended Sanger’s photography workshop and was inspired by his methods of getting low and looking behind you, not just in front of you for a shot. Ball stated, “You must see the subject and see the picture before you snap.”  All this comes into play as he takes a picture.
   Ball captures the details of the subject in the photographs he takes.  His portfolio is filled with captivating photographs of nature, such as the blooming wildflowers, the hummingbird hovering to drink, and the morning dew on the mushroom.  One of his favorite photographs he took occurred on a trip to Alaska where he captured a breathtaking view of Long Lake.  Ball reminisced about the trip with his granddaughter, “Heather and I were on the way to hike on a glacier.  We came around a curve in the road, and there it was!  Such a beautiful scene.”  Ball described the experience with such admiration and the photograph captured his love for the subject once again.  Ball’s passion for photography continues to grow as he looks ahead planning trips to capture more of nature’s beauty, as well as staying an active member of the Tri-State Camera Club of Ashland.