The Second Annual Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy Jamboree took places under an unforgiving sun Wednesday afternoon for 500 camp-goers from towns throughout Fairfield County.
Youngsters from the in Norwalk, , , in Stamford, and Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport hardly seemed to mind the heat, though, as they jumped from activity to activity.
"The turnout was terrific," said Tom Chiappetta, executive director of the Fairfield County Sports Commission. "We did this last year and it was very successful last year. That's what we're trying to do with the Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy, make it something more regular. It's a special thing for kids. They have a special day to bring them together from throughout the county, have a chance for them to learn something, meet somebody, have some fun."
There were some celebrities among the volunteers helping kids learn about and participate in different sports. Norwalk native and former NFL defensive back Skip Lane was in attendance, as was Greenwich native and two-time medal winner frmo the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics in women's hockey Sue Merz.
Merz, who now lives in Milford, said getting kids out onto the field is the ultimate goal. Expose them to lots of different things and hope they find something that brings out a passion in them.
"This is a wonderful event," Merz said. "This is a great place for them to [get exposed to everything] and also meet folks like me who have had success in sports, see that I'm a regular person and come from the area. They get to see that anything is possible when it comes to being a participant in sports."
Lane said the enthusiam the campers showed out on the field keeps alive his drive to volunteer with different groups and help the children improve.
"We were all kids like this at one time," Lane said. "We remember where we started so I see a little bit of all of me in all these little guys so I love to pat ‘em on the butt and tell them Dream Big."
One of the morst important guests, however, was Chelsea Cohen's mom, Barbara Rittner. Cohen fought valiently against a rare form of cancer, but ultimately passed away in 2006 at the age of 17. She was a star on the Norwalk High School soccer team and a "natural athlete," Rittner said.
"It's wonderful to be able to have something created in her honor that encourages and inspires young people to be active, be physical, to adopt a healthy life style," said Rittner. "I can't really describe it in words, but it's quite something. It's like when I would watch my daughter fly across the soccer field and having such a good time. These kids are having a blast and they're playing and that's what kids are supposed to do."