WEST ORANGE, NJ – The 40th Annual UNICO Sports Awards Breakfast was held in the Tarnoff Cafeteria at West Orange High School on February 23, and athletes from West Orange High School, Golda Ochs Academy, Seton Hall Prep, and Orange High School were recognized for their special contributions to their sports teams. The breakfast acknowledges athletes that are selected by their coaches who are considered 'unsung heroes' of their teams and who exemplify true character, team spirit and perseverance.
Hundreds of parents, coaches, administrators, friends, and family members of athletes met at a breakfast hosted by the UNICO foundation. UNICO members served breakfast to the guests prior to the start of the ceremony.
The most notable and emotional award of the morning, the Brian Piccolo Courage Award, was presented to Matt Wilson by Assemblyman John McKeon. Wilson, a team member on the West Orange Boys Soccer team, was diagnosed with a cancerous mass on his right knee a week prior to state playoffs.
Wilson's diagnosis and impending challenges strengthened the team as they rallied around him in support and dedicated themselves to persevere and win in Matt's honor. His prognosis is good and Doctors are optimistic about his full recovery.
“I think that Matt’s journey can’t be defined simply, but this award speaks volumes of the strength he has used to fight the fight that he is in. And I am sure everyone is proud of him for that,” said senior captain Ian Faloye about Wilson.
From Seton Hall Prep, Football Coach John Finnegan paid tribute to Joseph Tutela and Ralph Rizzolo.
Jim Matsakis, Head Football Coach at West Orange High School, recognized Aaron Flores and Girls Soccer Coach Lou Mignone recognized Fethnat Nishuileabhain.
Orange High School Football Coach Randy Daniel feted Carlton Toussaint and Girls Volleyball Coach Christopher Cosmillo recognized Kayla Wallace.
Allison Moses of the Golda Ochs Girls Soccer team was recognized by Coach Rob Cohen, and Baseball Coach Frank Genova, recognized Jason Mast.
Mayor Robert Parisi, UNICO Breakfast Chairman, paid tribute to the State Champion West Orange Boys Soccer Team. Entering the states as 15th seed, the team continued to win each round of play, defeating soccer powerhouses across the state.
The overall message and objective of the UNICO foundation is to encourage “service above self” and the athletes awarded displayed this message through their actions, whether it is in the community or on their own teams.
The breakfast had the feel of a real awards show as coaches and guest speakers presented the award to the athlete, who then gave a short speech to thank all that helped them through their journey.
To conclude the UNICO breakfast, guest speaker Ed Lucas inspired the crowd with his life story. Lucas was a a Reporter and Broadcaster for New York sports despite being blind for most of his life.
Lucas’s overall message was to tell all who attended that they are all “hall of famers,” each in their own way. He spoke about his struggles adjusting to being blind and the future problems that would occur.
The UNICO breakfast was a joyous time for all who attended, bringing the community together to celebrate the achievements of athletes respected and loved by their families, friends, teams, coaches, and teachers.