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Fairfield County Sports Commission to Oversee Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy

Fairfield County Sports Commission to Oversee Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy

Website will be key component for providing awareness and education for health and wellness for county youngsters

June 27, 2010

The Fairfield County Sports Commission today announced the formation of a countywide effort to use its vast resources to provide more awareness and educational focus on having underserved area youth have access to a more active and healthy lifestyle. To meet those needs, the Commission is creating the Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy, to further honor the late Chelsea Cohen, for whom the Commission’s Courage Award is named since her passing in 2006.

A kickoff event is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 5 at Norwalk High to celebrate the positives of leading an active lifestyle. More details on the event will be announced soon.

The Commission plans to have the Cohen Academy be a collaborative community effort, and has received positive feedback in meetings with the Norwalk mayor’s office, Public Health and Parks and Recreation departments and through contacting a wide variety of youth organizations, facilities and service providers. The Sports Commission’s web site will be one of the main vehicles to accomplish its goals.

“What we hope will make the academy unique and have a real impact in making actual lifestyle changes, is its collaborative nature and the sharing of best practices as well as its focus on becoming an active youngster or athlete, not sports specific skills,” said FCSC Executive Director Tom Chiappetta. “One of the main goals is to use Chelsea as a model as someone who was a very active, all-around student-athlete, and not have her legacy limited to being just a talented soccer player. Using our website as the central place for fitness information and youth programs availability can be a valuable resource to all of our children and their parents.”

The academy grew to be a reality out of a partnership forged three years ago between the FCSC and the Forever Young Foundation, the charitable giving entity of Greenwich native and NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young. That agreement has Forever Young being the presenting sponsor of the Chelsea Cohen Courage Award at the Commission’s Sports Night awards dinner each year. Financial support from Forever Young and the Commission will initially support the Academy’s programs and activities.

“When Forever Young decided to support the Sports Commission and sponsor the Chelsea Cohen Courage Award, our hope was that we would be able to help keep Chelsea’s legacy and spirit alive,” Young said. “The creation of the Commission’s fitness academy is not only an outstanding tribute to Chelsea, but the impact it will have in the Norwalk community and beyond in giving more children access and opportunities to learn about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle fits perfectly with our other Forever Young programs around the country.”

The primary goal of the Cohen Fitness Academy is to create a year-round vehicle that will offer Norwalk children – and other Fairfield County youth –access to the best available fitness trainers, coaches, and health and wellness programs that provide opportunities to be active daily. The academy will be designed to be the rallying point to engage all important community stakeholders in children’s health, nutrition and in the fight to combat childhood obesity. Also to take that information and extend it’s reach throughout the entire area via the Sports Commission’s web site (www.fairfieldcountysports.com)

Under the Commission’s umbrella, the academy plans to work with existing Norwalk-based youth organizations and others throughout the county to supplement and complement their efforts. Those groups outside of Norwalk include: USA Fitness Corps, The First Tee of Fairfield County, the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport and Stamford Youth Foundation, with the latter two already beneficiaries of Commission financial and program support through 2011. In Norwalk, the George Washington Carver Center is working with the Commission in a similar two-year arrangement and will benefit from the academy’s resources. Other Norwalk groups the Commission has contacted to develop opportunities to support them are the Norwalk YMCA and Norwalk Promise. The academy is in the process of contacting a number of other community programs.

In an effort to create a resource hub for health and fitness programs and services available throughout the county, the Commission will use its website as a central depository for that information as well as an inventory of youth programs and fitness professionals. Through the one-stop site, existing community programs will receive additional exposure and help foster collaborative efforts on sharing best practices.

The Commission has put together an advisory board of county-wide professionals to create and shape the academy programs, as well as produce content, articles and training tips, along with other area experts, for the FCSC web site. That group includes:

-Greg Brittenham, Stamford – Strength & Conditioning Coach, New York Knicks
-Julia Chiappetta, Greenwich – Certified personal trainer, wellness consultant/author
-F. Skip Latella, Wilton – MS, Sports physiologist, CEO Flexor Sports Training
-Patrick Mediate, Greenwich – MEd, Physical Education, Greenwich High, NSCA state director
-Dr. Keith Overland, Norwalk – Certified Chiropractic sports physician, FCSC board
-Suzanne Vita Palazzo, Norwalk – Certified Health Counselor, nutrition, founder Vitalink LLC
-Gary Valentine, Wilton – Valentine Strength Consulting, adjunct prof. exercise science, SHU

Through the Commission’s relationship with the University of Connecticut, Dr. William Kraemer, Professor, Department of Kinesiology, UConn will also provide guidance and resource for the academy. Kraemer is one of the nation’s foremost experts and in-demand speakers for fitness and kinesiology.

Also providing additional support is the Commission’s major health care partner, Stamford Hospital and its Orthopaedic Institute. The hospital’s director of orthopaedic surgery Rudolph F. Taddonio, M.D., P.C., a Commission board member, will play an active role in integrating the hospital’s resources with the academy.

The Commission’s advisory board and professional experts will be developing a signature program as the academy grows that will focus on children in their formative years, with a strong emphasis on young girls in the spirit of Cohen’s achievements.

In 2006, the Commission created the Chelsea Cohen Courage Award. The former Norwalk High soccer star was the Commission’s first Courage Award recipient. She passed away in 2006 after a courageous bout with a rare form of cancer of the nervous system. The award recognizes the person in the sports community who has shown inspirational strength in battling life-altering obstacles. Forever Young and the FCSC have made a joint donation of $2,000 for each of the past two years to the Chelsea Cohen Memorial Fund, which was started by Cohen’s parents Barbara Rittner and Larry Cohen. The Cohen Fund’s goal is to support HOPE (Helping Open Possibilities for Excellence), which aids young people who need financial assistance to reach their life goals. The funds for the HOPE effort will now be directed to the Cohen Fitness Academy to meet that mission.

The Fairfield County Sports Commission is a 501c3 non-profit organization that is the one-stop resource for the sports community in the area, with a mission of promoting fitness and personal development through sports. The Commission, with the exception of the executive director, is an all-volunteer group that gives financial support and its resources back to its communities, primarily focused on the 110,000 school age youngsters it can reach with its fitness awareness education programs


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