Parker Nork’s Legacy of Great Sportsmanship Lives on Through Parker’s Army Award Program

Dec 19, 2018
Courtesy of: Kim Nork Even at 9 years old, Parker Nork lived his life with joy and passion, and exemplified great sportsmanship, whether playing hockey, football or lacrosse. Now, the Nork Sportsmanship Award will honor local recreation athletes for their outstanding sportsmanship.

Parker Nork’s legacy lives on. His family has made sure of it – and with good reason.

“He made everybody smile and loved everyone he knew and met,” said Parker’s mother, Kim, who on March 11, 2017, had to say goodbye to her son as he passed from this life at 9 years old, just three weeks after a leukemia diagnosis. “He was so young, but so respected by other kids and coaches on his teams. Even other teams’ kids and coaches respected him. He was a very kind soul, the sweetest boy.”

Despite their heartbreak, but with overwhelming support from the Manahawkin community, Kim, her husband, Pete, and daughter, Payton, decided giving back to a community that had given them so much was the best way to keep Parker’s memory alive – and Parker’s Army was born.

From the Parker’s Army website: “The goal of Parker’s Army is to give back. We want to give back to everyone who has given us and Parker so much. The organizations, the coaches, the teammates, the families. We want to give back. Developing a foundation that not only supports our community but upholds Parker’s legacy is our mission.”

In June, Southern Regional High School senior and ice hockey team goaltender Cameron Conrad was the first recipient of the Parker M. Nork Memorial Scholarship for $5,000, but Kim wanted to go a step farther to recognize younger athletes throughout Manahawkin, specifically at the recreation levels. Along came the idea for the Nork Sportsmanship Award.

“I was thinking about what we could do for kids who are really dedicated to their sports and exhibit great sportsmanship, and this is what we came up with,” Nork said. “Parker played a lot of sports. He wasn’t the best player. He didn’t score all the points or anything like that, but he was so dedicated and loved everything about sports. But more than that, he was a fantastic teammate and cared about all the other kids out there – whether the kid was on his team or the other team.

“Parker really loved playing and didn’t always care about winning. We thought the sportsmanship award would be a great way to recognize youth athletes in town for their great attitudes while being dedicated to their sports.”

The concept is simple: A Nork Sportsmanship Award can be received by any nominated athlete, from any season, registered in a Stafford Township Recreation athletics program. The awards recognize student-athletes who have distinguished themselves through demonstrated acts of sportsmanship and ethical behavior.

Nominations are open to student-athletes between the ages of 8 to 13 years old who have participated in at least one Stafford Recreation season during the 2018-19 school year. Some of the criteria are that nominees act positively within  a community’s sports culture and game environment; clearly demonstrate sportsmanship, behavior exhibited during competition by student-athletes based on values, respect and integrity; display acts of integrity that go beyond the sport’s playing rules and etiquette, and make decisions that, while difficult or unpopular, are respectful of the game/opponent; and put others’ needs ahead of his or her own.

Athletes from the following recreation programs are eligible – Southern American Youth Football and Cheer, Stafford Basketball, Stafford Field Hockey, Stafford Sparklers, Stafford Boys Lacrosse, Stafford Little League, Stafford Girls Lacrosse, Stafford Softball, Stafford Soccer, Stafford Volleyball and Stafford Wrestling Club.

Only league presidents or executive board members can nominate a student-athlete from their organization, and only one youngster per age group. All those making nominations must do so prior to two weeks before the end of their organization’s season.

“At the end of the school year, sometimes in June, we’re going to have a big ceremony somewhere – hopefully STAC (Stafford Township Arts Center), if it’s available – to recognize all the nominees,” Nork said. “Every one of them will receive a personalized trophy and certificate, along with a limited-edition Parker’s Army T-shirt commemorating their achievement. Parker would have loved this idea.”

The intent is to make the Nork Sportsmanship Award a staple within the Stafford recreation community, and she said it’s the family’s hope many youngsters will strive to exemplify great sportsmanship to earn one of the awards.

“We hope that kids will keep it in the back of their heads, ‘What would Parker do?,’ when they’re playing their sports,” she said. “Sports are not always about who scores the most and who’s the best player. It’s about good character and being a positive influence for your teammates and even opposing athletes. By striving for a Nork Sportsmanship Award, we want these kids to be better sportsmen and women.”

Anybody interested in nominating a student-athlete for the Nork Sportsmanship Award may contact Ralph Torres at ralph@parkersarmy.com. For more information about the Nork Sportsmanship Award and anything related to Parker’s Army, visit parkersarmy.com.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

Even at 9 years old, Parker Nork lived his life with joy and passion, and exemplified great sportsmanship, whether playing hockey, football or lacrosse. Now, the Nork Sportsmanship Award will honor local recreation athletes for their outstanding sportsmanship. (Courtesy of: Kim Nork)
Even at 9 years old, Parker Nork lived his life with joy and passion, and exemplified great sportsmanship, whether playing hockey, football or lacrosse. Now, the Nork Sportsmanship Award will honor local recreation athletes for their outstanding sportsmanship. (Courtesy of: Kim Nork)
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