CSWA bestows inaugural Kolinsky award

The North Haven High School football program, which adopted a local six-year-old boy suffering from a congenital heart defect as part of its team last season and then honored his memory after he passed away, has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Bo Kolinsky Special Recognition Award from the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance.

Head coach Tony Sagnella, his 2013 captains and other members of the team will be honored at the 73rd Gold Key Dinner April 27 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.

The newly created Bo Kolinsky Special Recognition Award is named for the longtime scholastic sports editor of the Hartford Courant and CSWA member who passed away in 2003.

Matthew Jacques was a student at Montowese School in North Haven and an inspiration to the NHHS football team. The Indians hold an annual intra-squad scrimmage every June called the “Spring Brawl” which outgoing seniors organize, coach and raise money for a special cause.

When they heard about Matthew’s condition, the team not only invited him to take part in the scrimmage, but arranged for him to score a touchdown on the opening play. According to Sagnella, Matthew’s participation in the game was an incredibly emotional event for his players and spectators at the game.

So much so that the Indians raised $13,000 to offset medical costs the Jacques family was going to incur. Then when word of what they did began to spread, players at Xavier High School raised $2,000, the Branford High football team raised another $1,000, and players at East Haven High School raised $600.

Matthew underwent a successful heart transplant on Sept. 5 at New York Presbyterian Hospital, but passed away three weeks later on Sept. 26 from complications. When Sagnella received word, he gathered his players together in the gym to break the news to them and say a team prayer for the Jacques family.

Later in the day, the Indians’ four captains — Ethan Suraci, Patrick Mikos, Michael Siwek and Austin Mahon — went to all of the downtown North Haven merchants who had contributed to their fundraising project and informed them of Matthew’s passing and to thank them again for their support.

“Their act of compassion and the willingness to complete every project that they were involved in was indicative of this group of guys,” Sagnella said of his players. “They knew it was their duty to finish this mission and that was to let everyone know about Matt’s death and to thank them again. That was an amazing act of character for 17 and 18 year-old kids.”

The next day, playing with heavy hearts, an inspired North Haven team defeated East Haven, 54-28.