By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
Special Olympics Connecticut hosted an awards dinner on Thursday, Mar. 21, at the Aqua Turf. Several people were awarded for their participation in the organization, which will be celebrating 51 years in June.
One of the eight individuals to receive a Spirit of Life Award, was 11 year-old Bristol resident, Eleni Prtyko. Prtyko is a student at Edgewood Elementary School.
She was joined by her mother, Christine, her Unified Sports coach, Michele Gugliotti, and one of her teachers, Kathleen Fields, who also coaches Prtyko in Unified Sports.
Prtyko has participated in several sports, including soccer, cheerleading, basketball, gymnastics, and will begin participating in track in field in the upcoming season. But, she said, her favorite is gymnastics.
“It’s my favorite because we get to do different types of things, like vault, beam, bars, and floor,” said Prtyko. “Vault is my favorite because I get to do tumbling passes off of the vault.”
The athlete said she was inspired by a video played earlier in the event, highlighting some of the accomplishments of Special Olympics Connecticut and it’s participants for the last 50 years. She said it inspired her to help other people.
“It’s nice to see that she has grown into this young lady that she is today,” said her mother, Christine. “She has come so far from being a shy little kid, to an open, charismatic, funny child that she is today.”
Also receiving a Spirit of Life Award were Fianel Rosario of Torrington, Agostinho Portelinha of Wolcott, Kim Masiello of Oxford, Destiny Little of New Britain, Danny Kenny of Trumbull, Jonathan Foster of Bethel, and Jen Carlson of Marlborough.
President of Special Olympics CT, Robert ‘Beau’ Doherty, opened the evening with stories of his time spent working with closely with Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics.
Doherty inducted seven individuals, groups, and organizations into the Hall of Fame, and each inductee received an award for their service.
WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) of Stamford received the Community Leadership Award. Doherty presented the Lew Perkins Coach Award to Francis LaPointe, of the Griswold chapter of Special Olympics. Nancy Hemingway of Manchester was awarded the Sheila Schmidt Award. The Bozzuto Family Award was presented to the Violano Family of Hamden. Dr. Craig Edmondson of Sandy Hook was inducted with the Susan Saint James Award. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Award was presented to Justin Mazza of Windsor Locks. And, the Eunice Martha Award was presented to Michael, Jennifer, Ellie, and Landon Elmore of Arizona.
Special Olympics Windsor Locks was presented with the Outstanding Local Program Award. This chapter has been serving the Windsor Locks community for over 23 years, and accepting the award ws local coordinator, Mary Jane Hussey.
Closing the awards presentation was the Unsung Heroes Awards, seven of which were presented. They were awarded to Gary Ciccone, who passed in Feb. 2018, his award was accepted by his son Brian, Jeffrey Gill, Suzanne Powaluk, Stephen Longo, Robin Sorey, Lt. Timothy Bernier, and Julie Esposito.