Sunday, July 27, 2014

An absolutely perfect Person of the Year

Stephanie Jallen, Pat Solano honored at reception Tuesday

March 22. 2014 2:10PM

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She took the hearts of the Wyoming Valley to Sochi. And she brought back a pair of bronze medals.

Along with all the attention given to Stephanie Jallen and her outstanding Paralympic debut, she was recognized by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett at the Sunday Dispatch 2013 Greater Pittston Person of the Year event held at the Gramercy Restaurant and Ballroom in Pittston Tuesday evening.

Jallen was presented with a proclamation in front of approximately 120 people in attendance.

“I asked her how long she’s been skiing, and I said that’s how long I haven’t been skiing,” Corbett laughed. “Good skiers like Stephanie make it look easy. I’m amazed. When I ski on one ski it’s because I’m out of control.”

Jallen, who is a senior at Wyoming Area, was named the Person of the Year by the Sunday Dispatch for her accomplishments leading up to her performance in Sochi, Russia.

“The amount of people I was able to meet and the experiences I had was because of everyone in this room,” Jallen said. “My family, my trainers, my coaches, my peers and the heroes I look up to. I am absolutely honored to accept this award.”

Also recognized by the governor was Pat Solano for his 40 years of public service in the area. Solano was awarded the Sunday Dispatch Joseph Saporito Lifetime of Service award. The governor presented him with a proclamation as well.

“Cities like this are great,” Corbett said in his opening remarks. “We have cities like this all across the Commonwealth. Tonight we honor the lifetime achievement of one and the initial achievement of another.”

Stealing the show

Jallen stole the show in her Paralympic Winter Games debut by claiming the bronze medal in the women’s super-G on Day 3 of the competition at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center.

In her first run of her first Games, Jallen skied her way to the podium to claim bronze in the women’s standing class. Jallen crossed the line in 1:30.14 to secure her podium position over teammate Allison Jones by more than half a second.

“It was beyond exciting to just get here,” Jallen said at a news conference earlier in the day Tuesday at the Wyoming Area library. “Going to the Paralympics was the icing on top of an awesome cake. I didn’t realize medaling was going to be the cherry and the sprinkles on the cake.”

Now, Jallen is a superstar in Wyoming Valley — something she’ll just have to get used to.

“There’s definitely a little more recognition,” she said. “I don’t think people realized how big the Paralympics were until they were televised. It opened people’s eyes, and that’s good for the entire sport itself.”

She also won a bronze after the second of her two runs in the super combined. Jallen opened with a 57.98-second effort in the slalom to place third, nearly three seconds ahead of the remainder of the field.

In the super-G portion of the super combined, she was second to the eventual gold medalist. Her time of 1:25.15 was only .26 seconds from winning the second half of the super combined. She nearly caught Germany’s Andrea Rothfuss for silver, coming in just .39 seconds behind over the two events.

Already a winner

The Sunday Dispatch award is presented to the person who had the greatest impact on life in Greater Pittston during the past year, with the emphasis on impact. That’s Stephanie Jallen.

Born with the rare birth defect CHILDS (Congenital Hemidysplasia with Ichthyosiform Erythroderma and Limb Defects Syndrome), Jallen has only one leg and only one fully developed arm.

Jallen had already flourished prior to heading to Sochi. This year alone, she won a National Championship in downhill and finished second in the Super G. At the World Cup competition in Copper Mountain, Colo., she garnered a top-10 finish in the giant slalom.

In 2013, she won the World Cup at Thredbo in the slalom and came in second in giant slalom. At the IPCAS Panorama competition, she won first in the super combined and giant slalom, and finished third in the Super G.

“You’re going to be a leader and the role model I talked about,” Corbett said directly to Jallen. “We’re very proud of you.”

Throughout the past several years, the Stephanie Jallen Fund Inc. has been a driving force to keep Jallen on pace to achieve her dreams. Downhill skiing is one of the most expensive sports, she said. And without the fund, none of it would have happened.

“It’s hard to come up with the words to thank everyone,” she said, giving a huge shout out to the person she couldn’t have done anything without: her trainer, Ernie Baul. “A simple thank-you isn’t good enough. This is a small community, but we together pulled off something great. Even when I didn’t believe in myself, they did. It’s because of them that I can even do this.”

Jallen is headed to King’s College in the fall, with aspirations to continue skiing. Her goals: go to college, stay at home and ski. She said if she can balance all of that, she most certainly will.

“I am glad I can represent Greater Pittston for the great place that it is,” she said. “It is home to all of us and it will always be home.”

Honoring Solano

Before the ceremony, Solano was presented with his proclamation from Gov. Corbett. Solano was adamant about receiving his proclamation prior to the ceremony to not take the spotlight away from Jallen.

“We’re here for our girl Stephanie,” he said. “This is your night.”

Solano was also given a congratulatory note sponsored by state senators Lisa Baker and John Yudichak that “firmly states that he is a shining example of community spirit whose many contributions are worthy of deep gratitude and respect,” and was read to the Senate in Harrisburg on Feb. 4.

“His lifestyle and his dedication to the community, county and state have been unwavering,” Corbett said. “He has given his passion to his country and given to all of you.”

Solano, the charismatic, scratchy-voiced Republican from Hughestown, has served the residents of Greater Pittston as a confidante of governors, from Bill Scranton to Corbett, always keeping the best interest of his home town in mind. He’s served on dozens of local committees, boards and organizations and continues to this day to be an integral part of the political fabric of Greater Pittston.

“I am humbled by this award because you never know anything about yourself until someone does some research,” Solano said with a laugh. “To get an honor named after Joseph Saporito makes it that much special. That’s what makes me proud.”

Solano pointed out that he and Saporito were close friends.

However, Solano was short in his remarks, making sure Jallen was the center of attention.

“What she did is an accomplishment, in my mind,” he said. “Think about this: the fortitude and the confidence that she had. That becomes an absolute inspiration to us all.”


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