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STRIVE Award Recognizes Top Youth Sports Leaders in National Program

Sally S. Johnson, Executive Director
National Council of Youth Sports

STUART, Florida. (September 18, 2007) - The National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) selected five adult leaders involved in youth sports organizations as recipients of its 4th annual Hershey's STRIVE Award. STRIVE stands for Sports Teach Respect, Initiative, Values and Excellence.

NCYS is a national youth sports advocacy organization. Its membership represents more than 52 million boys and girls involved in youth sports activities nationwide.

This year, NCYS will present Hershey's STRIVE Awards to one national administrator, two local administrators, one volunteer and one coach. Honorees were nominated by team members, parents or colleagues and judged by a panel of NCYS officials.

The honorees include Ron Komornik of Virginia Beach, Va., who is the recipient of the Hershey's STRIVE Coach of the Year Award. Komornik coaches baseball and basketball to youth ages 7-17. Komornik's nominators said his focus on respect, discipline and perseverance, as well as basic sports skills, has improved young players' self-esteem. "He treats every player as amazing individuals while leading each one to great achievements as a unified team."

Mark Griffin, founder/president of Play Rugby, based in New York City, is the Hershey's STRIVE National Administrator of the Year. Griffin has pioneered a completely new and unique youth sports education program using a non-contact "flag" version of rugby as an effective education tool for boys and girls in urban area schools and after-school programs across America. Griffin brings more than 23 years of experience as a passionate player, coach and administrator to his position at Play Rugby. Play Rugby encourages kids to have fun, improve their fitness and learn a new game while developing 10 core values including teamwork, leadership, discipline, respect, and responsibility.

Sally S. Johnson, NCYS Executive Director, noted that the lack of recognition given to outstanding adult leaders involved in youth sports prompted NCYS to create the STRIVE awards four years ago. "Honoring America's hometown heroes on a national scale gives them the praise they deserve," Johnson said. "It is awe-inspiring to pay tribute to these exceptional individuals who devote countless hours each week, all while juggling full-time careers, families, and other commitments."

Other STRIVE Award winners include:

Amy Skeen of Chicago, Ill. will be honored as one of the Hershey's STRIVE Local Youth Sports Administrator's of the Year. Skeen serves as Executive Director of Girls in the Game, a program that incorporates both multi-sport and quality fitness opportunities with comprehensive health and nutrition education. Girls in the Game is committed to enabling girls to try a variety of new sports and develop healthy habits in a safe and supportive environment. Skeen leads by example mentoring staff and coaches who provide individual attention and serve as positive role models while improving the health and overall well-being of girls.

George Waldbauer of the Suffolk County New York Police Athletic League (PAL) will also be honored as the Hershey's STRIVE Local Youth Sports Administrator of the Year. PAL aspires to make a youngster's first experience with the police officer a positive one by keeping at-risk kids off the streets and out of trouble in supervised athletic activities. Waldbauer has been Executive Director of PAL for 26 years. The program has grown and now serves more than 29,000 boys and girls. He led an extraordinary effort to build a state of the art multi-sports complex for players and families in Suffolk County. His supporters say, "For George, it's all about the kids and his community."

Hatti Hartman of Austin, Texas was chosen as the Hershey's STRIVE Volunteer of the Year. Hartman was recognized for her contagious spirit of enthusiasm, her unparalleled ability to organize and communicate, and her unquestionable integrity. The Oak Hill Youth Sports Association community agrees, "It would take ten people to wear all the various hats that Hatti Hartman wears each and every day." She is a motivator, a doer, and the one who "pinch hits" whenever and wherever the need arises.

Winners will receive a check for $2,500, payable to the youth sports organization of his or her choice. Ceremonies for each will be held in their communities or at their organization's national event.

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The National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) comprises the who's who in the youth sports industry. Its membership represents more than 180 organizations/corporations serving 52 million boys and girls participating in organized youth sports throughout the United States. NCYS members include organizations such as: Little League Baseball, Pop Warner Football, U.S. YouthAmerican Youth Soccer Association, United States Olympic Committee, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. To learn more about the NCYS visit

ABOUT The Hershey Company:
The Hershey Company has long offered successful fundraising programs for youth in America. Its sponsorship of the STRIVE Awards stems from The Hershey Company's devotion to helping children of all ages to "Dream, Reach and Succeed" in everything that they do. For more information about The Hershey Company and its fundraising programs, visit