In Vatican, and by Greek initiative, young Cody McCasland was honored like a true Olympic victor.
On Saturday, September 11th 2012, and during a deeply moving and highly successful ceremony held at the Aula Magna of the University “Pontificia Università Urbaniana» in Vatican City, the International Guieseppe Sciacca Awards were presented to young people between 18 and 35 years of age for achievements in arts, culture, science and society. Special distinctions were also awarded to renowned personalities.
The ceremony featured a strong Greek presence with many awards presented to important people from our country. The Archaelogist and Head of Excavations and Restoration works in Ancient Messene, professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Crete Petros Themelis, was presented with the Special Award for Archaeology by the President of the Cypriot Olympic Committee, professor Uranios Ioannidis.
The founder and president of the “Ark of the World” Father Antonios Papanikolaou, received the Award of Social Services for his immense charitable and social efforts to offer help and support to children and parents in difficulty.
The founder and the Presodent of «Maria Grazia Balducci Rossi with the father Antonios Papanikolaou
It was an especially touching moment when Cypriot Olympic silver medalist Pavlos Kontidis was presented with the Sports Award for his excellence at the 2012 London Olympics and by making history for being the first Cypriot athlete to ever win an Olympic medal.
Another highlight of the evening was when 17- year-old student and champion of the Greece-Cyprus basketball league with the Doukas School team, Georgios-Nektarios Delis, was presented the «Maria Grazia Balducci Rossi» award of Social Awareness and Volunteering by Claudio Coldebella. The famous and distinguished basketball star congratulated young Delis for his dedication to sports and his ethics, as well as for his important initiative to suggest the 11- year-old athlete Cody McCasland as the Absolute Winner of this year’s International Giuseppe Sciacca Awards.
The Absolute Winner award (Premio Assoluto) was granted to Cody McCasland, who suffers from a rare degenerative disease called Sacral Agenesis, which caused deformations of his spinal cord when he was still in his mother’s womb. When he was only 17 months old, Cody got his first pair of artificial legs and he hasn’t stopped moving ever since. He has been running, swimming, playing soccer and hockey and is a celebrated triathlon champion. For his courage and iron will, he was chosen by the US Ministry of Defense to raise the morale of wounded and amputated soldiers who return from foreign missions.
Despite the physical challenges he is facing, Cody travelled for the first time overseas to Rome to receive personally his International Giuseppe Sciacca Award along with his family.
A small child with a superhero’s heart, Cody McCasland expressed his gratitude to the International Giuseppe Sciacca Awards Committee for the honor of acknowledging his struggle to lead a normal life, and to his family for their unconditional and unfailing support. “Yes, I’m special”, Cody said. “Most people have two legs, but I have many more, a different pair for different occasions, and that helps me stand up to every challenge that lies ahead”.
The award, in the form of a ship, was created by the Greek artist Sakis Chilelis and was presented to Cody by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who mimicked the wavy movement of sailing and of the effort one makes to reach one’s destination.
The sparkling eyes and bright smile of the little boy acknowledged the symbolism, and Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos bowed to Cody while offering him the elegant award.
Currently Cody is preparing for the 2020 Paralympic Games, thus he decided to gift the Awards audience with a demonstration of his skills by changing his artificial limbs with the pair he uses for his training. Everyone stood up and applauded enthusiastically and rhythmically, as befits a champion, urging him on.
With the opportunity of Cody’s training for the Paralympic Games, the General Secretary of the Awards Vicky Bafataki handed Cody the eternal symbol of victory, the laurel wreath (cotinos), stating the following as regards the relevance and the symbolism of this very special present: “Since Cody has decided to take part in the Rio Olympic Games, we offer him the cotinos, the symbol of victory which we bring from Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, and wish him wholeheartedly to always triumph in life”.
The Cypriot Olympic medalist Pavlos Kontidis placed the cotinos wreath, a creation of the artist Yiannis Suvatzoglu, on Cody’s head and the little boy walked around proudly with it for the rest of the evening. Mr.Spiros Karaoulanis, Deputy Representative of Greece, presented him with an honorary plaque on behalf of the Greek Secretariat of the Giuseppe Sciacca Awards.
At this year’s awards ceremony there was also a representation for neighbouring Turkey: the famous Turkish actor Murat Yildirim was presented with the Cinema and Theatre Award for his exceptional talent and ethics and his steadily increasing popularity beyond the borders of his country.
Of utmost importance was the Special Cultural Award with which Cardinal Raffaele Farina was honored. The ring he received was designed by the Greek jeweler Yiorgos Poniros. Awards were also presented to personalities from all over the world, namely, the Swedish photographer Viktor J. Fremling, one of the best in the European artistic landscape, and recipient of other important awards such as that of Google; and Teodora Borota (Serbia) & Christiana Benedetti Fasil (Italy), economists widely recognized by financial institutions and Universities for their studies, who received the International Economy Award.
The awards ceremony was attended by various ecclesiastical, political, diplomatic and military authorities, among others, the Cardinal Rafaelle Farina, the Greek Ambassador in Vatican, Mr. Georgios Papadopoulos. the Press Officer of the Greek Embassy in Rome, Mr. Georgios Mamalos, the President of the Cypriot Olympic Committee Mr. Uranios Ioannidis, the Mayor of Messene, Mr. Efstathios Anastasopoulos, etc.
The rest of the awards that were presented were crafted and gifted by the following Greek artists: the painter Christina Kostopoulou, Costas Tzanakis, and Spyros and Demetris Papadopoulos. The music of the ceremony was composed by Nikos Sanios, all printing material was offered by Aihmi and ekptotiko.gr, while the watch and jewelry industry magazine CHRONOS Plus sponsored the event.
Edited by Theodora Darveri