Jack Healey’s Commentary May 11th, 2018

The Mill River Unified Basketball team came up a little bit short in the state championship game at UVM’s Patrick Gym yesterday losing to the Belcate School of Essex Jct. by a score of 51-47. Mill River is the South champion and had a rousing send off before leaving for Burlington and a huge welcome back after the game as well. Congratulations on a great season!

It was remarkable that the undermanned Celtics beat Philadelphia in the NBA Eastern Conference Semi’s in 5 games and I think the miracle ends there. The gutty Celtics don’t have enough to beat Lebron and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m going with Cleveland in 6.

I have had the pleasure of being the MC at the annual scholar-athlete dinner sponsored by the Vermont Chapter of National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame  for several years. The banquet was held on Sunday May 6th and I reported on the various winners last week. I mentioned that Rutland High’s Dylan Moore was the winner of the Community service Award, but I want to add that he was also among the honorees as well.

I was especially impressed with the two student-athletes who were given the “Most Courageous Athlete Award”. The first is Skylar Stone of North Country Union High School:

At the end of Skylar’s junior year his mother was murdered. Needless to say, the news of his mother passing shocked him. Most would isolate themselves for a period of time. Skylar refocused, sat for all of his finals, finishing out the academic year in good standing. Skylar found salvation with his team working out in the weight room during the off season. He leaned and found support from his teammates. During this time the guys really rallied around Skylar and he was emerging as a leader of the team heading into his senior year.

The time and energy Skylar put into the weight room was impressive to watch. He lifted up the spirits of others and provided them with support and instruction when needed.  Skylar also ended up setting North Country Union High School’s deadlift record at 650 pounds. He entered his senior season as strong as ever, was elected captain of the team, and participated in Vermont’s North/South Game.

Skylar used the lessons learned through football and applied them to his life to help him through a painful time in his life. Through it all, he maintained a great sense of humor and continued to get along with, and work well with others. He is polite and respectful. Also being presented with the award was Brayden Duggan of Colchester High School. The following is what his coach had to day about him:

 

I’ve been coaching in Vermont for about 25 years now. I have worked with a variety of

courageous and powerful young men, but I have never had a person like Brayden Duggan before. I believe he exemplifies the “Most Courageous Athlete Award”.

Brayden Duggan has always been a great kid and a hard working football player. He’s not blessed with size or speed, but has a great work ethic and is an excellent teammate.

In March 2016 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He lost 50 pounds and spent hours and hours in the hospital receiving chemo treatments and hoping for the best. The best did not occur. In August 2016, when he thought they had gotten all the cancer, he found out it was back. This time he was forced to sit out his junior year of football and receive treatments again.

During this second bout, Doctors discovered that Brayden’s mother had breast cancer. So, while trying to heal himself he also was concerned for his mother.

This award talks about “overcoming extreme hardships in his pursuit to be a contributing member of the team”. While all this was going on Brayden stayed with our team. As he received treatments, he worked as our manager, got water, took video, fixed our old broken down golf cart and without knowing it acted as an inspiration for our team. His contributions and selflessness attitude set the bar for that team. He was nothing short of amazing.

The following spring he was given the all clear and so was his mother. After chemo destroyed his body and took away his opportunity to be a normal kid, Brayden’s way of celebrating his recovery was to attend 75% of our off-season workouts. He put on over 50 pounds and once again set the example for our team. The long term symptoms of his illness linger. He doesn’t have all his taste back, he needs to have his heart checked, as sometimes it races, but he never gives up and always has a smile. He is quite simply the strongest person I know. His hardships have been both mental and physical and, in the spirit we hope all football players have, he battles through every moment.

We opened our 2017 season@ Middlebury and lost. I asked him how he felt and his answer was “I played in a football game today, this is a good day.” Yes two very impressive young men!

                                 

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