The Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance is pleased to announce that Eastern Connecticut State soccer player Jon DeCasanova and former Sheehan High tennis player Connor Reed have been selected as the Bob Casey Courage award winners.
DeCasanova, a soccer player at Eastern and a graduate of Glastonbury High, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in 2012 and later lymphoma diagnosis in 2013, and given less than one percent chance of survival. But after several years of treatment, he returned to Eastern in 2014 with a clean bill of health and ready to complete his time at the school and with his team. Reed, who is from Wallingford, was diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis — a rare inflammatory disease of the central nervous system — in 2014, and was temporarily paralyzed, but later returned to play tennis with his team.
DeCasanova and Reed will be honored at the 74th Gold Key Dinner on Sunday, April 26 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Former professional hockey player Craig Janney, former Killingly High and Providence basketball standout Tracy Lis, former Derby High and Yale running back John Pagliaro and longtime FCIAC official John Kuczo will receive Gold Keys at the dinner.
Tickets to the 2015 Gold Key Dinner, which begins at 4 p.m., are $75 and can be purchased by contacting either CSWA President Matthew Conyers of The Hartford Courant at 860-874-4166 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Vice President Tim Jensen of The Enfield Source at email@example.com. Tickets can also be obtained by mailing a check to Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance, P.O. Box 70, Unionville, CT, 06085.
DeCasanova, 23, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in the summer of 2012, and a lymphoma diagnosis followed in the spring of 2013. He was given a less than one percent chance of survival by some doctors.
But following several years of treatment, DeCasanova was given a clean bill of health and returned to Eastern in the fall of 2014 as a senior to pursue of his degree in Sport & Leisure Management and complete his soccer eligibility.
In the fall of 2013, following an experimental procedure called a T-cell infusion, DeCasanova’s health slowly began to improve. He was able to leave the hospital and return to campus.
On Jan. 24, 2014, while walking to class, DeCasanova, a standout midfielder from 2009-11, got the call he always wanted. He had officially beaten cancer.
DeCasanova, a team captain, participated in pre-season conditioning with the team last August and made his first appearance since 2011 on Sept. 16 against Albertus Magnus.
Before suffering a concussion on Oct. 18 at Rhode Island College, which sidelined him for the rest of the season, DeCasanova started seven games for the Warriors.
When DeCasanova was sick, several bone marrow drives were organized.
The first drive in DeCasanova’s name occurred October 23, 2012 with over 700 members of the Eastern community in attendance. Every single member of the men’s soccer team contributed time and energy, while recruiting other student athletes to help out as well. According to Be the Match, this was the second-largest bone marrow drive on a college campus.
For DeCasanova’s work and the work of his teammates, Eastern was honored in the fall with the 2014 National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be the Match Awareness Award. Be the Match is a nonprofit organization focused on research to help bone marrow transplant patients and their families. They research new technologies and new techniques, while offering excellent patient support and education. The Eastern Connecticut State University broadcasting network made a feature film on DeCasanova’s story.
(Information provided by Eastern Connecticut State).
Reed was hospitalized in 2014 with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, a rare inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. The disease is similar to multiple sclerosis. Fevers, weakness and loss of muscle control are common symptoms.
The outcome for Reed, a former tennis captain at Sheehan, was uncertain for several months, and his parents held out hope at first for his life; then later, some quality of life.
After being discharged in February 2014, Reed was transferred to Gaylord and began rehabilitation. He was discharged from Gaylord on March 22.
Throughout the entire ordeal, the community united to support him. A pasta dinner was organized to raise money for the family.
Reed returned to the team in May and played in a limited capacity. He's a freshman at UConn. (Information provided by The Meriden Record Journal).
Connor Reed photo by Justin Weeks, courtesy Meriden Record Journal