Forever Young Foundation to Continue its Support of Chelsea Cohen Courage Award

by Jesse Quinlan
Greenwich Time Staff Writer

Saturday, July 31, 2010

 

Chelsea Cohen's mom Barbara Rittner, left, and soccer star Kristine Lilly unveil the logo for the Fairfield County Sorts Commission's Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy during a press conference outside Norwalk City hall on Sunday, June 27, 2010. The logo features the color Carolina blue, the color used by Lilly's alma mater the University of North Carolina, a school the Cohen had also wanted to attend. Photo: Brian A. Pounds, ST

Chelsea Cohen’s mom Barbara Rittner, left, and soccer star Kristine Lilly unveil the logo for the Fairfield County Sorts Commission’s Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy during a press conference outside Norwalk City hall on Sunday, June 27, 2010. The logo features the color Carolina blue, the color used by Lilly’s alma mater the University of North Carolina, a school the Cohen had also wanted to attend. Photo: Brian A. Pounds, ST

Even more than scoring a touchdown at Cardinal Stadium or stiff-arming a would-be Wilton tackler, what Greenwich native and Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young really misses about Fairfield County are the people that used to fill the stands every Saturday afternoon.

 

Young, who retired from the NFL at the end of the 1999 season after a record-setting 15-year professional career, now lives in California with his wife, Barbara, and their four children.

 

At heart, however, the-two-time NFL MVP and three-time Super Bowl champion is an East Coast advocate with strong ties to the community he grew up in.

 

Now and seemingly forever, Young plans to stay connected to Connecticut.

 

“Anything like this is important to keep those connections and extend relationships,” Young said during Friday afternoon’s conference call in which he announced his charitable foundation will sponsor the Fairfield County Sports Commission’s Chelsea Cohen Courage Award for a third straight year.

 

The award is named after the former Norwalk High soccer star who passed away in 2006 after a courageous bout with a rare form of cancer of the nervous system, and recognizes the person in the sports community who has shown inspirational strength in battling life-altering obstacles.

 

The Forever Young Foundation 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.

 

“I love what’s happening with the award,” Young said. “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.”

 

On Thursday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Norwalk’s Testa Field, Basketball Hall of Famer and Norwalk native Calvin Murphy will be the featured speaker at the kickoff event for the Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy.

 

The free event is open to all area youth groups, and will also be attended by Hall of Famer and Greenwich resident Gail Goodrich, and Courage Award winners James Hilaire (2009), Mike Myers Keitt (2008) and John Tartaglio (2007).

 

The primary goal of the Cohen Fitness Academy is to create a year-round vehicle that will offer Fairfield County children access to the best available trainers, coaches, and health and wellness programs.

 

The academy is 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)

 

“The creation of the Commission’s fitness academy is not only an outstanding tribute to Chelsea,” Young said, “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 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 said.

 

“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.”

 

At Greenwich High, Young earned All-FCIAC West Division first team honors as a junior in 1978 before being named All-State as a senior.

 

The lessons he took with him to BYU were learned both on the practice field and in the classroom.

 

“I’m not sure if you can beat a Greenwich High School education,” said Young, who praised his former teacher, Terry Lowe, and one-time coaches Mike Ornato and John Kavanagh during the conference call. “I was shot out of a cannon, and if it wasn’t at the right speed and the right trajectory, I would be a different person right now. The impact my high school had on me was huge.”

 

Just as the impact that Young has on the county he was raised in is huge.

 

“There would be something missing without this connection,” said Young, whose sister, Melissa, is scheduled to be inducted into the Greenwich Aquatics Hall of Fame. “I have this itch to get back home. My family loves Greenwich and my dad (LeGrande, who gave his induction speech) said he would never leave. But we’re all out West now and my parents have 24 grandchildren, so it’s tough for them.”

 

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