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Dedication, Passion and Commitment Determine America’s Best Youth Sports Leaders as STRIVE Hometown Heroes


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

STUART, Florida. (August 15, 2008) -- Millions of men and women active in youth sports are finally getting the opportunity for the recognition they deserve. The National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) has named four individuals from hometown communities throughout the United States as recipients of the annual NCYS 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 185 organizations/corporations serving 60-million registered participants/44-million actual boys and girls in organized youth sports activities.

This year, NCYS’ Hershey’s STRIVE Award will be presented to a national administrator, a local administrator, a volunteer and a coach/official for their “heartfelt passion, enthusiastic commitment, and a contagious spirit to help kids succeed in youth sports activities.” Honorees were nominated by team members, parents or colleagues and judged by a panel of NCYS officials.

Among the honorees is Steve Kelley whose indelible imprint he has left on the lives of hundreds of highly disadvantaged youth at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, Massachusetts has earned him the title of NCYS’ 2008 Hershey’s STRIVE Award for Coach of the Year. Academic Basketball is Steve Kelley’s brainchild where every boy and girl must not only present a satisfactory weekly report from his/her teacher but must also attend a one-hour study session before each practice. Kelley says, “These kids are my heroes. They overcome odds that would pulverize adults. The drugs, the gangs, the guns, the violence, the teen pregnancy and the family problems they encounter each day would challenge a saint to stay on the straight and narrow. The kids do it. They work at their lives daily and they are the survivors and the ‘thrivers’ we read about as incredible successes. How lucky can on person be to work with these kids!”

Ann Cody of Washington, D.C. is being recognized as NCYS’ Hershey’s STRIVE National Administrator of the Year. She is the director of partnerships and public policy for BlazeSports America headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Cody has dedicated her career to ensuring that young people with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from sports. Cody is a Paralympic Gold Medalist in athletics and competed on three U.S. Paralympic teams. As a sport instructor, she has taught aspiring young athletes and their coaches training principles and techniques in wheelchair racing, injury prevention, sports psychology and racing strategies. Whether advocating for the creation of physical activity standards for people with disabilities or shaping landmark legislation, Cody’s leadership is making a significant difference on overcoming the barriers and advancing the lives of youth with physical disabilities through sport and healthy lifestyles.

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 five 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:

Frank Wilkinson of Staten Island, New York will be honored with NCYS’ Hershey’s STRIVE Award as Local Youth Sports Administrator of the Year. Wilkinson has had a lifetime journey in the sport of bowling since the age of five. At the age of 18 he was elected President of the New York State Youth Leaders Chapter of the United States Bowling Congress and today remains an active leader in USBC and Bowling Proprietors Association. Passionately involved in all aspects of the bowling industry and a strong advocate for youth bowling, Wilkinson has also introduced the sport of bowling to school students as a part of their physical education classes. Wilkinson is a respected voice for all youth bowlers telling the kids and the volunteers, “It is our job to pay it forward.”

Dan Dionisio of Olney, Maryland was chosen as the recipient of NCYS’ Hershey’s STRIVE Award for Volunteer of the Year. For nearly 20 years, Dionisio has been a coach or on the board of directors of the Olney Boys & Girls Community Sports Association helping OBGC children for eleven years before his own kids were born. His volunteer leadership is responsible for transforming a small disorganized organization serving 1,800 children, into a highly recognized organization serving 7,000 children on a 118-acre nationally acclaimed facility. Dionisio has set a standard for adult behavior in the club. He is a role model motivating nearly 800 volunteer coaches to make child-base decisions where no children are turned away due to cost and by creating a club environment where children flourish in superior quality youth sports programs.

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 185 organizations/corporations serving 60-million registered participants/ 44-million actual boys and girls in organized youth sports. NCYS members include organizations such as: Little League Baseball, Pop Warner Football, U.S. Youth Soccer Association, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the United States Olympic Committee. 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