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The Fairfield County Sports Commission created the Chelsea Cohen Courage Award in 2006, named after the late Chelsea Cohen, a former Norwalk High soccer star who was the Sports 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 Chelsea Cohen Courage Award recognizes the person in the sports community who has shown inspirational strength in battling life-alterning obstacles.

The Courage Award is presented by Chelsea’s parents Barbara Rittner and Larry Cohen and her twin brother Daniel.

Forever YoungIn 2008, the Sports Commission’s Courage Award started a relationship with the Forever Young Foundation, the charitable entity of former Greenwich native and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young. Forever Young has made a long-term commitment to sponsor the Courage Award donating a significant amount of money each year. Forever Young and the Sports Commission will also make a donation each year in Chelsea’s memory.   Each year’s donation goes to support the Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy.

2014 Chelsea Cohen Courage Award

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Click on the tabs below to see the Chelsea Cohen Courage Award recipients from each year.

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Dixon, Amy

2013 CCCAThe 2013 Courage Award winner is Amy Dixon, a para-triathlete from Greenwich.

Dixon is legally blind, yet she competes in triathlons with a guide, and in the past year has become one of the top para-triathletes in the country. Dixon has lost most of her sight over the past 15 years and now has less than one percent vision. She met Caroline Gaynor, the triathlon director for Team Red, White and Blue which supports veterans when they return from combat, who encouraged Dixon to race in a triathlon this year. Gaynor rides with Dixon on a tandem bike and the women are tethered when they run and swim and she acts as Dixon’s eyes and ears. Since that meeting Dixon has excelled at many of the top triathlons around the nation.
Greenwich

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Gorham, Paul

2012 CCCAThe 2012 Courage Award winner is Sacred Heart Head Football Coach Paul Gorham.

Gorham faced an unknown opponent in February when he began fighting for his life against idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease of the lungs that’s only cure was a double lung transplant. After undergoing the double lung transplant, it came at a huge cost as he lost the lower portion of both legs due to circulation problems brought on by procedures he had done prior to the transplants.

The Sacred Heart coach is still receiving medical treatment and is working hard to be involved with the program as much as he can for associate head coach Mark Nofri, who now is handling the head coaching duties.
Fairfield

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Bill, Brian R.

2011 CCCAThe 2011 Courage Award winner is SOC (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, a Stamford native who enlisted in the United States Navy in June 2001. On August 6, Bill was killed in action in Afghanistan. He was a graduate of Norwich University and of Trinity Catholic High in Stamford (1997). Bill played soccer and hockey at Trinity, and was a co-captain in hockey under FC Sports Hall of Fame coach Mickey Lione, Jr. He was an avid sportsman as a skilled fly-fisherman, skier and skydiver, and also was an accomplished mountaineer and tri-athlete, who completed several marathons.

“We are extremely honored to accept this award on Brian’s behalf,” said Bill’s mother Pat Parry. “Personal fitness, sports competition, mental and physical toughness to conquer even greater challenges in life were central to Brian’s character. We are very proud of the daily courage he displayed in his military career, and being recognized with the Chelsea Cohen Courage Award by his home community is a truly special way to honor his legacy.”  
Stamford

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Green, Ken

2010 CCCAThe 2010 Courage Award winner is Ken Green, a Danbury native who has been a professional golfer for 30 years. Green was involved in a tragic auto accident in June 2009. The injuries he sustained led to his lower right leg being amputated. In the accident, his brother, girlfriend and dog were all killed. Having turned 50 the year prior, Green had just rejuvenated his golf career on the Champions Tour. Through an intensive rehabilitation process and now fitted with a prosthetic leg, Green remarkably recovered to play his first competitive round of golf in March 2010 and went on to play in Champions Tour events.

On the PGA Tour, Green was a five-time winner and was a member of the U.S, Ryder Cup team in 1989. In 2006, he was inducted into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame.
Danbury

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Hilaire, James

2009 CCCAThe 2009 Courage Award winner is James Hilaire, a Stamford resident and University of New Haven soccer goalie, who suffered a traumatic head injury in a soccer match. Hilaire, who attended Stamford High and Norwalk Community College before playing at UNH, was involved in a violent collision in a game at Merrimack on Sept 24, 2008. An opposing player’s knee smashed into Hilaire’s skull, causing a vein to rupture inside his skull and broke his jaw. He was in a coma for eight days. While he was in critical condition, a blood clot developed in his lung. Through diligent rehabilitation, he has made miraculous recovery and now has about 50% use of his right arm and hand. He has also started his own foundation, “Big Time Recovery” to help other athletes who have experienced serious injuries on the field of play.
West Haven

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Myers-Keitt, Mike

2008 CCCAThe 2008 Courage Award winner is Mike Myers Keitt, a Fairfield Prep graduate and basketball standout who now attends Monmouth University. Myers Keitt, who is a Norwalk native now living in Waterbury, suffered traumatic injuries in a fall on the court in 2006. A cracked right side of his skull, broken bones in his inner ear and considerable nerve damage to the right side of his face left him unresponsive and doctors not sure if he would walk again. The 6-foot-7 Myers Keitt recovered over a two-year period and earned a scholarship to Division I Monmouth.
Fairfield

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Tartaglio, John

2007 CCCAJohn Tartaglio, a Milford resident who is in his junior year at Fairfield, is the second winner of the award in Cohen’s name.

In 2004, at the age of 17, Tartaglio was diagnosed with a rare bacteria infection. To save his life, doctors had no choice but to amputate both his legs and his left bicep. Through rigorous and dedicated workout sessions, including weight training, swimming, cycling and running, Tartaglio has become an active, inspirational triathlete. Fitted with prosthetic legs, he has completed 5K runs, competed in the 2006 New York Marathon in the hand-cycling division and triathlon events in the area.
Milford and Fairfield

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Maiella, Jason

2006 CCCAJason Maiella, a senior baseball standout at Sacred Heart University, was the first winner under Cohen’s name.

“When Chelsea passed away, our immediate thought was how could we honor her memory for the long struggle she endured, while keeping such a positive outlook and inspiring all of us along the way,” said Sports Commission Executive Director Tom Chiappetta. “Having our Courage Award each year be presented in her name will be a lasting tribute to a young lady who fought the worst of opponents right to the end.”

Maiella battled his way back from a traumatic head injury that had him near death in October 2004, to renew his college baseball career and help lead Sacred Heart to the Northeast Conference title and its first-ever berth in the NCAA baseball national tournament. Maiella, from North Haledon, NJ, missed the entire 2005 season to recover from the injury and its severe after effects. In 2006, he earned all-Northeast Conference honors by hitting .313 with a career-high 34 RBI as the team’s starting second baseman.
Fairfield

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Cohen, Chelsea

2005 CCCAChelsea Cohen was the first recipient of the Courage Award, presented to the person in the sports community who has shown inspirational strength in battling life-altering obstacles.

The Norwalk High senior was a standout player on the girls’ soccer team when she was a sophomore, scoring 16 goals. In mid 2004 she was diagnosed with CNS sarcoma, a rare form of cancer of the nervous system. She has been undergoing treatment since then and at times has been confined to a wheelchair.

Her constant positive outlook and inner strength in her day-to-day fight with cancer typifies what courage is all about.
Norwalk