Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy (OLFCA) hosted its Annual Tyler Ugolyn Memorial Event virtually this year with families, students, friends, and alumni on Feb. 3. During the virtual event, two students–Crina Pariza and Ryan McMahon–were presented with the 2021 Tyler Ugolyn Award.
Keeping with tradition, each year OLFCA honors two students, one boy and one girl, to receive the Tyler Ugolyn Award. Pariza has been a student at OLFCA since 6th grade, and McMahon, since kindergarten. The students must have displayed exemplary character and sportsmanship on the school’s campus, within the community, and while playing any sport. The awardee does not have to be the best-skilled player on the team, however they must demonstrate the traits for which Tyler was known: compassion, teamwork, love of the game, and spirituality.
Tyler Ugolyn was a 1993 graduate of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy who perished in the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. He was a remarkable young man who, aside from his love of the game of basketball, embodied what it meant to be a man of faith, character, and integrity. The Tyler Ugolyn Foundation, “Tyler’s Court” is a charitable organization founded to help support the communities and activities to which Tyler Ugolyn devoted his personal time, effort and love.
The Foundation is committed to providing support to youth basketball, with an emphasis on court refurbishment and providing financial support to character building educational programs and skills clinics to children in urban settings. All courts nationwide funded by the Foundation are named “Tyler’s Court” and noted with a special plaque installed at each court along with the words “I just love playing the game,” a quote attributed to Tyler.
As part of Friday evening’s virtual event, about 40 families participated in a friendly, basketball-themed trivia competition. Traditionally, this night would have been the final game of the annual Tyler Ugolyn Memorial Basketball Tournament that typically involves about a dozen Catholic Schools from around Fairfield County. The school’s gym would have been filled with current students, alumni, friends, and the sound of the crowd would have been infectious.
“With many of our events this year we had to devise a ‘Plan B’, and execute new plans, ideas, and traditions. This was our first virtual trivia event, and while it was new, I think we did an excellent job of honoring Tyler. Our students and families had a great time keeping his memory and spirit alive, while centered around basketball and community—from the comfort and safety of their homes,” Stanley Steele, the school’s principal, said.
Annually, the final game of the tournament also closes out Catholic Schools Week, which is a week full of festivities. “OLFCA students made the best of a unique Catholic Schools Week due to COVID-19 restrictions. The students were still able to have a socially distanced pep rally series to accommodate different grades and special dress-up days, such as ‘Red, White, and Blue Day,’” Steele added. “All of our students and families have been great over the past year with adapting, and welcoming new traditions to keep our school safe and in session while maintaining activities to build each student’s social character.”