Tigers’ Athlete Cummings Honored with National Award
Published March 11, 2015. Last updated 04:51 p.m., March 10, 2015
Hand's Grace Cummings has been selected the 2015 national recipient of the National High School Spirit of Sport Award by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). The National High School Spirit of Sport Award was created by the NFHS to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics.
Described as being fearless, tenacious, self-sufficient, and self-motivated, Cummings is a highly accomplished three-sport student-athlete who plays field hockey, ice hockey, and tennis. On the performing arts side, Cummings has been a member of the percussion section in both the school's marching band and concert band and also a member of the flag squad.
Cummings has been equally exemplary in the classroom, where, as a high honor student, she has maintained a 3.98 grade-point average while taking all honor or advanced-placement college-level classes. Those accolades are made even more remarkable by the fact that, since a very young age, Cummings has been challenged by serious health issues related to her liver.
At birth in 1997, Cummings had a choledochal cyst in the biliary tract of her liver and, just days later, she had extensive surgery to remove it. Cummings was healthy until age two, when she developed her first episode of cholangitis-a bacterial infection in her liver that required her to be hospitalized for two weeks while on antibiotics.
Cummings had additional episodes in 2010 and 2011 that also required hospitalization on antibiotics. She had to have a PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) line inserted, which remained for many months. Cummings subsequently was diagnosed with Sclerosing Cholangitis and showed evidence of portal hypertension and cirrhosis-all of which put her on a list for a liver transplant in May 2012.
With that list being ranked by the MELD (Model End State Liver Disease) scores, Cummings had a low score and her diagnosis did not mesh well with the scoring system. The doctors told her family that Cummings needed a transplant as soon as possible.
Unable to locate a cadaver liver, with the assistance of the Yale Transplant Team, the Cummings family sought a live donor. Within three months, they located such a donor-a young man who was about to become a father. The donor had to first undergo a battery of tests and the transplant then took place on August 14, 2012.
Although that prevented Cummings from attending school and athletic competition for six months, she maintained both her sterling athletic and academic regimens and has now returned to full capacity. After being cleared to return to physical activities, Cummings again played her three sports and additionally served as captain of both the ice hockey and tennis teams.
On the academic side, she received national commendation for her high scores on the PSATs and did extremely well on her SAT test, where she scored a perfect 800 in math and in the 700s for reading and writing. In addition, Cummings will graduate on time and at the top of her class. With a particular interest in the areas of science and math, she intends to pursue those academic disciplines in college with a possible major in engineering.
Among her recognitions, Cummings received the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Michael H. Savage Spirit of Sport Award, the Sons of the American Revolution Good Citizenship Award, and the Daniel Hand High School tennis team's Sportsmanship Award. In an effort to give back to others similarly afflicted and to thank those who helped nurse her back to health, Cummings has been a highly active advocate in the fight against liver disease. Among her efforts, she has been a walk ambassador and team captain for the American Liver Foundation's (ALF) Liver Life Walk, for which she helped raise more than $40,000 for liver research and cures. She also received the "Quarter Century Salute" from the ALF and her walk team received the "Top Teen Team" distinction from the foundation in 2009.
Information courtesy of the NFHS