Former Mens Soccer Player James Hilaire Honored at ECC Awards Dinner
Rockville Centre, N.Y. - East Coast Conference Commissioner Dr. Robert Dranoff presented former University of New Haven Men’s Soccer Goalkeeper, James Hilaire with the inaugural ECC Alumni Excellence in Community and Character Award at the ECC Awards Dinner on June 9. The Alumni Excellence in Community and Character Award is presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves through positive actions and behaviors that are consistent with the NCAA Division II attributes of learning, service, passion, sportsmanship, balance and resourcefulness.
During his freshmen and sophomore years at New Haven, Hilaire, originally from Haiti, was an accomplished soccer player. He helping lead the Chargers to the NYCAC Finals against eventual National Champions Dowling College in his freshmen year and then earning All-Conference First Team honors as a sophomore.
September 24, 2008, was a day that changed the life of James Hilaire forever. The Chargers were playing an away game at Merrimack College. Hilaire was hit in the jaw while making a save and knocked unconscious. Hilaire was airlifted to Boston Medical Center where he was listed in critical condition with a contusion to his brain, which caused major swelling. Breathing with the help of a respirator, he remained in a coma for eight days. When he awoke he had lost the use of the right side of his body. Nearly three weeks later he regained his ability to speak and was moved to a rehab facility where he spent the next three months.
One year to the day of his injury, Hilaire was walking and speaking normally. Thanks to his hard work toward recovery, including continued physical therapy for his right side every week, he graduated from the University of New Haven at the Winter 2010 Commencement with a 3.7 GPA and now works for a federal law enforcement agency based in Connecticut.
Today, he continues to exhibit motivation, courage and uncommon resilience. He is working to develop a foundation he will call "Big Time Recovery." The goal of the organization will be to provide emotional support for injured high school and college athletes, as well as financial assistance to pay for books and other school expenses. Not only that, but he will leaving soon for California to try out for the Paralympics U.S. Men’s Soccer team.
“Perhaps James Hilaire in not official East Coast Conference alum,” commented Commissioner Dranoff (University of New Haven left the ECC after the spring of 2008). “But we are making him one tonight. He clearly displays the attributes that make him a very deserving honoree.”