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December 17, 2019/News Releases

Skylar Scarnecchia to Receive Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Courage Award During 20th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards

Champion Township basketball, soccer, track & field and volleyball student-athlete to receive honors

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Skylar Scarnecchia, an eighth-grader from Champion Township, Ohio, overcame a rare cancer diagnosis and amputation to return to playing competitive sports. Scarnecchia will be honored with the Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Courage Award during the 20th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards presented by Medical Mutual and Huntington on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel Grand Ballroom

Skylar Scarnecchia: 2019 Cleveland Clinic Courage Award

In 2015, Scarnecchia began to experience discomfort on the bottom of her right foot causing her to limp. She was treated for plantar fasciitis, however the pain continued to intensify.

In efforts to find the cause of the pain, Scarnecchia’s mother asked for an MRI to be taken which revealed a tumor on the bottom of her foot. Scarnecchia, who was 10 years old at the time, was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of soft-tissue cancer.

A full-body scan found three additional spots on her lung. Her case was reviewed by the Cleveland Clinic tumor board who put together a treatment plan. Scarnecchia started chemotherapy, receiving treatment once a week for three months.

At the end of Scarnecchia’s treatment, a scan showed two of the three spots on her lung had gone away. However, the tumor on the ball of her right foot had not responded to chemotherapy. Because of the location of the tumor and the need to remove all of the cancer on her foot, amputation was recommended. This decision was made together with Skylar’s family and surgeon, Nathan Mesko, M.D., director of Musculoskeletal Oncology in the Orthopaedic & Rheumatologic Institute and co-director of the Sarcoma Center at Cleveland Clinic.

Skylar Scarnecchia

In December 2016, Scarnecchia had surgery to amputate below the knee on her right leg. With the surgery and intense treatment that followed, she missed the entire fifth-grade school year but remained determined to get back to playing sports. She was fitted for a prosthetic leg in March 2017, and then was sized for the prosthetic blade runner a few months later. By August 2017, Scarnecchia was back on the soccer field and then followed that by participating in travel basketball.

“From the very first time I met Skylar, she had a bright spin on things,” said Dr. Mesko. “She has overcome so many hurdles, and despite massive obstacles, has turned every situation into something positive. Her fighting spirit and tenacity is truly inspiring.”

In July 2019, a routine follow-up showed that she is 32 months in remission. In addition to soccer, the middle schooler participates in track and field and volleyball. Scarnecchia recently signed with a professional talent agency and is excited to use that platform to increase awareness of sarcoma as well as prove to others that being amputee does not slow you down.

“Fighting for my life motivated me to inspire others and tell them I survived,” said Scarnecchia. “I’m so humbled and honored to be given this opportunity to start sharing my story and hopefully inspire other kids by letting them know they can win what they may think is tiring and impossible.”

Sarnecchia is currently in eighth grade at Champion Middle School and lives with Patricia and Jim, her parents, and Isaiah, her older brother. She has a public Instagram account, @IamSkylarStrong that she uses to raise awareness of childhood cancer and life after amputation. Additionally, Scarnecchia has a pelican named after her from Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida, whose leg is permanently misshapen due to a previous injury.

Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Courage Award is given to an athlete who displays courage beyond the boundaries of their playing field, in order to inspire those around them.

Greater Cleveland Sports Awards is the premier annual sports fundraiser that supports Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and celebrates Cleveland’s professional, collegiate and high school sports achievements. The event will feature appearances from national sports celebrities along with a formal dinner and awards ceremony honoring the top athletic moments from 2019.

Tickets and tables for Sports Awards are available for purchase at clevelandsportsawards.com.

Recipients of the Courage Award presented by Cleveland Clinic Sports Health include:

2019 – Skylar Scarnecchia, Champion Township, Basketball, Soccer, Track & Field and Volleyball

2018 – Sophia Pecjak, Mentor, Soccer and Basketball

2017 – Samer Babi, North Olmsted, Football

2016 – Kendra Seitz, Hudson, Competitive Swimming

2015 – Colin Teets, Westlake, Hockey

2014 – Nick Lenyo, Huron, Football

2013 – Courteney Belmonte, Westlake, Competitive Cheerleading

2012 – Molly Miller, Notre Dame Academy, Soccer

2011 – Brandee Kelly, Cleveland State University, Basketball

2010 – Olivia Warhop, Hathaway Brown School, Swimming and Soccer

2009 – Gyasi Cooper, St. Ignatius High School, Track & Field

2008 – Eric Anderson, Jr., Gilmour Academy, Basketball

Jenna Homrock
(216) 386-9628
Meredith Painter
(216) 496-3863

About Cleveland Clinic: Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S. News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 66,000 employees are more than 4,200 salaried physicians and researchers and 16,600 nurses, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic’s health system includes a 165-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 11 regional hospitals in northeast Ohio, more than 180 northern Ohio outpatient locations – including 18 full-service family health centers and three health and wellness centers – and locations in southeast Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2018, there were 7.9 million total outpatient visits, 238,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 220,000 surgical cases throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 185 countries. Visit us at clevelandclinic.org. Follow us at twitter.com/CCforMedia and twitter.com/ClevelandClinic. News and resources available at newsroom.clevelandclinic.org

About Greater Cleveland Sports Commission: Since 2000, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission (GCSC) is responsible for attracting over 200 sporting events which provide more than $811 million in economic activity to Northeast Ohio. GCSC serves to measurably improve the economy of Greater Cleveland and enrich the community by attracting, creating, managing and enhancing significant sporting and competitive events. For more information, visit clevelandsports.org.

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