NORWALK, Conn. The first annual jamboree hosted by the Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy will be a bittersweet day for Barbara Rittner. She's thrilled the event will bring 500 children from Fairfield County to Norwalk High School Wednesday to learn the benefits of an active, healthy lifestyle. But Rittner wishes her daughter could be a part of it.
"It's wonderful to see that it's happening,'' Rittner said. "It's wonderful to see the honor and recognition. I just wish my daughter were here."
The fitness academy was created last year. It is named after Cohen, a former girls soccer standout from Norwalk High School who died in August 2006 after a lengthy battle with a rare form of nervous system cancer. The jamboree, from 1-3 p.m. at Testa Field, will educate children about healthy lifestyle choices with games and demonstrations in a field day format. Several Fairfield County sports celebrities will also participate, including Bobby Valentine, former NBA star Wes Matthews, Norwalk boxer Travis Simms, women's ice hockey star Sue Merz of Greenwich, Boston College football player Kevin Pierre-Louis and Norwalk's Idris Price, a former player in the NFL.
Community groups from the Recreation and Parks and Carver Center in Norwalk, the Yerwood Center and YMCA in Stamford, and the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club will visit the jamboree. All children are welcome.
"The fitness academy is a wonderful tribute to my daughter,'' Rittner said. "She was somebody who lived her life to the fullest and was extremely athletic. It's such a great example for kids to always strive for your dreams and be fit and active. She always kept that spirit, to try and try again. She amazed everyone with how much she could do with so little."
The academy's primary goal is to create a year-round vehicle so Fairfield County youth can access the best available fitness trainers, coaches, and health and wellness programs that provide opportunities to engage in healthy activities. Wednesday's event is the first major community event hosted by the academy, which was created by the Fairfield County Sports Commission. It also sponsors the annual Chelsea Cohen Courage Award.
"Hopefully, this will be a vehicle that will tell her story throughout the whole county,'' Rittner said. "I believe if you influence one life, you accomplish your goal. Through the Courage Award and the Academy, this is a much larger scale. It's a wonderful tribute to Chelsea."
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