Waterford's Marissa Walker named recipient of National High School Spirit of Sport Award

Waterford's Marissa Walker, a cancer survivor, is honored during a softball game on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, at Stonington High School. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Waterford's Marissa Walker, a cancer survivor, is honored during a softball game on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, at Stonington High School. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

The night was Jan. 26, prior to a boys' basketball game between Ledyard and Waterford at the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse, and the crowd fell silent as it listened to Waterford High School senior Marissa Walker.

Walker, a cancer survivor, organized the evening as a “Go Gold for Childhood Cancer” fundraiser, poignant in every fashion.

“Watching her speak at the Go Gold fundraiser and seeing all in attendance riveted to her words is something I will never forget,” said Pete Walker, Marissa's dad.

Already selected as the recipient of Michael H. Savage Spirit of Sport Award, given annually by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, Marissa Walker was further recognized Monday when she was named the National High School Spirit of Sport Award winner.

The honor, courtesy of the National Federation of State High School Associations, will be presented on June 29 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile.

Walker, who will attend the University of Miami beginning next year, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on Feb. 2, 2009, at the age of 9. She celebrated being eight years cancer free Nov. 8, but is still recovering from her most recent surgery to reinsert a component into her tibia – she has an expandable prosthetic in her left leg – and will likely have to forgo her senior softball season. Walker, a left-handed pitcher, was named the Lancers softball captain.

She was nominated for the Spirit of Sport Award by softball coach Andy Walker, her uncle.

“Marissa Walker is a winner, even if she never steps foot on the field of play again because her 'spirit of sport' can never be taken away; it is a permanent part of her,” Andy Walker wrote in a letter of recommendation.

“She is an absolute inspiration to me every day I wake up,” said Pete Walker, pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays, who received the news Monday of the national honor from Florida, where he is in the midst of spring training. “Her unwillingness to give in and feel sorry for herself is truly amazing. It is a shame we aren't watching her dominate high school sports like I know she would have, but she is making her mark in so many other important ways.”

Marissa will receive the Connecticut award in May at the CIAC's Scholar-Athlete Banquet.

Her “Go Gold” effort raised more than $1,600.

Walker, who plans to major in pediatric oncology, is a member of the National Honor Society, elected to Waterford's Class Council all four years of high school and serves as secretary of the Key Club.

v.fulkerson@theday.com

 

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