The Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance has announced the seven 2016 John Wentworth Good Sports Award winners. Ray Aramini of Columbia, Tom DeFilippo of Bethany, John Greco of Middletown, Paul Glover of West Hartford, Bill Nataro of Torrington, David Pelletier of Wolcott and Jennifer Schulten of Middlefield will be honored at the 75th Gold Key Dinner on Sunday, April 24 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.
The award is given in memory of the late sports editor of the New Britain Herald and honors individuals who have dedicated their time to helping their communities through sports.
Former welterweight boxing champion Marlon Starling, New England/Hartford Whalers owner and founder Howard Baldwin, 1960 U.S. Hockey Olympic gold medalist Bob McVey, Trinity College squash coach Paul Assaiante and longtime Greeenwich High boys swimming coach Terry Lowe will receive Gold Keys at the dinner.
Tickets to the 2016 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 the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance, P.O. Box 70, Unionville, CT, 06085.
A look at the six Good Sports Award recipients.
Ray Aramini (Columbia)
Aramini, a volunteer assistant coach for the Eastern Connecticut State University rugby team, has been involved in soup kitchens and various forms of community service his entire life.
As a freshman in college, he helped his cousin run across the country to raise money for research by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He also spent two years in Jamaica working for a mission soup kitchen. He also worked at soup kitchens when he attended Keene State.
Aramini raised nearly $250,000 for Willimantic's Covenant Soup Kitchen through two bike rides, one from Canada to Willimantic in 1996 and another from California to Connecticut in 2000. In 2015, his rugby team raised more than $100,000 for the soup kitchen doing a polar plunge in Willimantic.
Many of Aramini's current and former players have become involved in community service, too. Former players Patrick Scully and Nick Fitzner biked from Washington to Willimantic to raise money for the soup kitchen in 2012. Scully and Fitzner started the polar plunge.
Aramini is on the board of directors for the Willimantic Soup Kitchen. His athletes help at the soup kitchen, but they also shovel driveways for the elderly, rake yards, plant trees, clean up garbage and help with Eastern's move-in day.
Aramini started playing rugby at Keene State.
Tom DeFilippo (Bethany)
As athletics director and physical education teacher at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School's Cady School in Middletown, DeFilippo has logged countless unpaid hours establishing and nurturing a football program.
The football program serves the residents of Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS) - repeat juvenile offenders who come to the secure state-run facility to be rehabilitated. No state funding is available for the football program so DeFilippo has successfully sought donations of money and equipment from ESPN, local colleges, People's Bank and the region's three NFL teams.
DeFilippo also schedules opponents for CJTS, which is no small task. There are no road games. All games are home games with visiting schools submitting to security protocol upon arriving for the game. The CJTS Hawks football program was founded in 2009 and in 2014 the field at CJTS was named in DeFilippo's honor.
John Greco (Middletown)
Greco has been the Chef de Cuisine at the Middletown High School (MHS) concession stand for 35 years. The stand is operated by the MHS Booster Club -- of which Greco, 83, is a charter member -- and began in 1981.
From the beginning, Greco was the cook. His french fries, hamburgers and other assorted fare are wonderful, but his chief contribution was the Greco hot dog. It wasn't enough that he grilled the tube steak, he would bring peppers and onions from his own garden, grill them, then smother the dog in the veggies.
Greco, a single parent who raised his two sons following a separation, got involved with high school sports when his youngest son, Paul, played baseball and soccer for Woodrow Wilson High School. At Wilson, he would grill outside, but when the city's two public high schools merged in 1984, Greco was instrumental in working to convert a garage at the north end of Miller-Fillback Football Field and Track into a full-service concession stand. He never missed a game.
At halftime of a football game on Sept. 18, 1999, in a surprise ceremony, the concession stand was named "Greco's Grill" in his honor and the city of Middletown proclaimed it "John Greco Day." That name was carried over to the new concession stand at Rosek-Skubel Stadium on the campus of Middletown High School, only it's now called "Greco's Grill at the Dragons' Den."
Greco still works every football and soccer game at the outdoor stand and also works at the indoor stand for girls and boys basketball games.In 2011 the MHS softball team named Greco its No. 1 Fan and in 2013, the Booster Club established a $1,000 scholarship in his name. The award is given to a deserving senior who will be attending college and who has done community service. The city proclaimed a second "John Greco Day" on June 10, 2015, and he received a Service Award from the city for his work as one of the founders of the MHS Blue Dragon Booster Club.
Paul Glover (West Hartford) Paul Glover has been involved in youth soccer in West Hartford for nearly 40 years. He has coached recreational and travel teams in West Hartford girls soccer since the 1970s. He has volunteered as a coach in the West Hartford women’s soccer club since it was founded in 1995. He has served as president of the girls soccer league, the junior division coordinator and a coaches representative on the women’s soccer club board. He helped co-found the girls travel league, served on the Board of Directors of the non-profit Field of Dreams group and on the town’s Veteran’s Affairs committee.
In the 1990s, he helped West Hartford negotiate with BF Goodrich to use about eight acres of property in town as soccer fields. When the town purchased the land in 2002, he helped raise $500,000 for field renovations. In 2015, the West Hartford Town Council renamed the Goodrich soccer fields as the Glover Park soccer complex.
Bill Nataro (Torrington)
Nataro started the Torrington summer basketball league 30 years ago. It is one of the biggest summer basketball leagues in the state. The league hosts 52 teams and plays games at Torrington High School, Torrington Middle School and The Forman School in Litchfield. The varsity divisions host 10 boys and 12 girls teams from Waterbury to the Northwest corner.
Nataro started the league as a way for his own kids to keep playing in the summer, but he has since helped thousands of kids get a chance to keep playing in the summer.
In the fall, Nataro helps run a seventh- and eighth-grade league with six to eight teams playing for five weeks. He also directs three weekend tournaments in November for all ages and a holiday tournament for seventh- and eighth-grade boys and girls between Christmas and New Year's Day. This season, profits from all the tournaments went toward new bleachers at a local gym.
David Pelletier (Wolcott)
Pelletier has voluntarily coached the Baseball Association of Wolcott's 7-8 year-old Roberto Clemente team for the past 21 years. Pelletier, 52, guided the team to American Athletic Baseball Congress World Series berths in 1997, 2006, 2007 and 2015. Pelletier has worked as a school aide at Wolcott High since 2001. He retired as a state correctional officer in 1996 after nine years in the system.
He is a 1981 Wolcott High graduate and he was a Wolcott Pop Warner football coach for 10 years and a park and recreation basketball coach for 20 years. He previously coached the Wolcott High freshman football and boys basketball teams and has been an assistant coach with the Eagles' baseball team for 15 seasons.
Jennifer Schulten (Middlefield)
When Schulten, a former Olympic hopeful in crew, started the Go Far, Go Fast running program a decade ago, she just wanted to keep her son active. But, now, 10 years after approaching her son's principal with the idea of a running program at recess, Schulten has helped sparked a passion for running in Middlefield and Durham.
In the past decade, the program has gone from a few curious runners at recess to a group that holds an end of the year race that attracts more than 400 runners from several different age groups.
Last May, Go Far, Go Fast celebrated its 10th year. Kids run, chart their mileage and through running learn the benefits of pursuing a long-term goal and working with the community. They start in kindergarten and go through middle school.
The program now has about 50-60 past participants running track and field and cross country at Coginchaug-Durham and working as mentors. Go Far, Go Fast is now funded by races and donations. In the beginning, most of the costs came out of her pocket. The program is now at three elementary schools and one middle school, where it is held after school.
Schulten, a graduate of Fordham, grew up in New York and was an elite rower. She rowed in the junior nationals and won Canadian and U.S. National championships as a sculler and was the first female member of the New York Athletic club. She competed at the Olympic trials and other top competitions. She has two children, Kate and Pete, who were both part of Go Far, Go Fast, and now run for Coginchaug. Her husband, Chris, is a top local marathoner and triathlon athlete.