October 1, 2019 — The Fairfield County Sports Commission announced today that Stamford resident Kyle O’Reilly is the 2019 Chelsea Cohen Courage Award recipient. O’Reilly was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder called Nablus syndrome and has been able to overcome this debilitating illness by channeling his passion for sports to become an active participant and, with the aid of a mentor, has taken on key supportive roles for two local basketball teams.
O’Reilly will be honored at the Commission’s 15th Anniversary Sports Night awards dinner Monday, Oct. 21, at the Stamford Marriott at 6 p.m.
The Fairfield County Sports Commission created the Chelsea Cohen Courage Award in 2006. It is named after the late Chelsea Cohen, a former Norwalk High soccer star who was the Commission’s first Courage Award recipient and 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.
O’Reilly continues to battle through the Nablus syndrome, which has caused Kyle in his daily life to deal with lung disease, muscle contractures, hearing loss, a speech/feeding dysfunction and presenting with a facial difference. He’s had over 20 surgeries and procedures and has a lifelong dependency on a feeding tube due to his facial anomalies. In addition to the many medical challenges, the 21-year-old O’Reilly has also fought to overcome the social/emotional issues kids with facial differences experience.
In 2016, Kyle connected with the Stamford Peace Youth Foundation and its founder and head coach, Brian Kriftcher. Serving as an assistant coach, team manager and videographer initially for PEACE’s 16U boys AAU basketball team, Kyle began to recognize the myriad ways beyond the playing field itself that his passion and knowledge of sports could be nurtured. In addition to his work with Stamford Peace, Kyle was a significant staff member of Trinity Catholic High School’s state championship basketball team, where he filmed, analyzed and created highlight videos for the team and its players. Through the power of sports and personal mentoring, O’Reilly has found his place in the community and is happy and thriving.
The Courage Award is sponsored by UnitedHealthcare.
Past Courage Award recipients are:
2018 — Ryan Boyle, Monroe native, Paralympics silver medalist trike cyclist, 2-time world champ
2017 — Charlie Capalbo, leukemia survivor, hockey goalie from Fairfield
2016 — The late Danielle Kemp, brain cancer, Milford resident and softball standout with Brakettes
2015 — Giacomo Brancato, cancer survivor and two-sport athlete at Fairfield’s Warde High
2014 — Nicole Graham, cancer survivor and two-sport standout at Greenwich High
2013 — Amy Dixon, blind para-triathlete from Greenwich
2012 — The late Paul Gorham, Sacred Heart University football coach
2011 — The late SOC (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, United States Navy, Stamford native who was killed in action in Afghanistan
2010 — Ken Green, Danbury native and pro golfer who lost his leg in a car accident
2009 — James Hilaire, Stamford resident and University of New Haven soccer goalie who suffered a major head injury
2008 — Mike Myers-Keitt, Fairfield Prep and Monmouth University basketball player
2007 — John Tartaglio, para-athlete from Milford who was a Fairfield University student
2006 — Jason Maiella, baseball player at Sacred Heart who was the first recipient under Cohen’s name in 2006