Charlie Ikard snaps a selfie as players enjoy the refurbished three-wall courts in the background.
Doctor's orders, personal trials, club closures and a pandemic. Charlie Ikard of Salem, Oregon has never been one to dwell on setbacks, and his drive fuels his relentless pursuit to promote handball wherever he lands.
Introduced to handball in Lewiston, Idaho, in the early 70s, Charlie knew he was hooked right away. Jumping at the opportunity to be involved, he created and managed ladders for more than 45 players at the local Elks Club with two handball courts. He was also instrumental in bringing along the new players while also attracting some pros to offer exhibition matches, including two of the best players at the time: Terry Muck and Naty Alvarado Sr.
Playing with the old black ball, Charlie began to develop artery problems in his hand. "I wasn't hitting it correctly," he admitted. His family doctor recommended he quit playing handball or risk losing two fingers. He decided to work on how to hit the ball--and to find a new doctor. "I'm still playing, and I still have my two fingers!" Charlie said.
In the late 80s, Charlie fell upon some hard times. He left Idaho, first relocating to Montana before settling in Oregon. "I lost everything," he remembered. "Thankfully, I had my handball family. Were it not for my handball friends, I'm not sure what I would have done."
Once settled in Eugene, Charlie jumped into promoting handball, working tirelessly to host tournaments and keep the Eugene Handball Association active and vibrant. He didn't miss a step when he moved to Salem in 2003, working with Salem Handball's Josh Reese (2010 USHA Volunteer of the Year). They continued to offer two tournaments a year. In 2018, Charlie led an effort to resurface and repair some three-wall courts at a local community college. The project's impact is still felt today as players have access to safe and playable courts outside.
In 2019, the Salem YMCA was demolished, leaving a number of handballers without a home to play. Charlie assisted those players, bringing them over to the Salem Courthouse where they could continue to play on their 7 handball courts. When the pandemic shut down clubs in his state, Charlie helped local players continue indoor play by working with the local club manager. By following safety precautions, there are as many as 10 handball players participating several times a week. This past year, it has been all too easy to fall away from physical activity when facilities are closed and restrictions on play still exist. For nearly five decades, Charlie Ikard has never stopped promoting the sport he loved, and we're proud to recognize him as our USHA Volunteer of the Year!