Weston-Barlow Sports Roundup: March 13

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Press release from Connecticut Sportswriters Alliance:

Dave Balfore, who overcame Bell’s palsy and then leukemia to return  to playing competitive sports at Berlin High School, has been selected  as this year’s recipient of the Bob Casey Courage Award by the  Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance.

Balfore, a freshman at Western Connecticut State University, will be  honored at the 71st annual Gold Key Dinner on April 29 at the Aqua Turf  Club in Southington.

Growing up, Balfore was a standout football and basketball player. In  fact, when he was in eighth grade, he played in the same backfield on  the Berlin Bears’ New England Midget Football championship team with  UConn’s Max DeLorenzo and Princeton’s Jon Esposito. At the time, nobody  could tell which of the three was going to be the biggest star.

But during an AAU basketball trip to Syracuse, Balfore became ill and  eventually diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis.  When he returned to play football as a sophomore, his symptoms became  worse and included severe headaches.

On June 8, 2008, Balfore was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed  with leukemia. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation and spent parts  of the next year in the hospital, sometimes weeks at a time.

When he tried to return to playing sports, doctors warned him he  would have very little energy. But Balfore was determined to play AAU  basketball between his sophomore and junior year. He couldn’t run for  long and at first he couldn’t even reach the basket when he shot, but he  found his way back onto the court.

Then in his junior year at Berlin, Balfore returned to football while  still undergoing treatment and was part of the Redcoats’ Class M state  championship team, not just watching but suiting up and playing.

Balfore also played football and basketball as a senior while still  receiving treatment. And despite having never played organized tennis  before, he went out and made the high school tennis team his junior and  senior years.

Finally, on Sept. 17, 2011, Balfore was told he was in remission at his monthly check-up.

Now a second-semester freshman at WestConn in Danbury, Balfore,  ironically, is majoring in Nursing after all his hospital visits.

In addition to Balfore, the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance will  be presenting Gold Keys to Kristine Lilly, Dave Shea, John Dunham and  Mike Walsh. Also, Granby Memorial field hockey coach Sandy Wickman Mason  will receive the Doc McInerney High School Coach of the Year in a  female sport, while Manchester High boys track and field coach Thayer  Redman will be honored as the Doc McInerney High School Coach of the  Year in a male sport.

Former UConn basketball player Kemba Walker will receive the Bill Lee  Male Athlete of the Year Award, while former University of New Haven  track star Shannon Gagne will be honored as the Hank O’Donnell Female  Athlete of the Year, and former Masuk High quarterback Casey Cochran was  selected as the Hal Levy High School Athlete of the Year Award winner.  The remaining award winners will be announced in the next few weeks.

Tickets to the 2012 Gold Key Dinner, which begins at 4 p.m., can be  purchased by contacting either CSWA President George Albano of The  (Norwalk) Hour at Truckin114@AOL.com, or Vice President and Dinner Chairman Bob Ehalt of The New Haven Register at Ehalt.Bob@sbcglobal.net.  Tickets can also be obtained by mailing a check to Connecticut Sports  Writers' Alliance, P.O. Box 70, Unionville, CT 06085. For more  information on the history of the dinner, visit the Alliance web site at  ctsportswriters.org.


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