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Institute to Honor DeMaria for Her Courage and Faith

Haley Scott DeMaria
Haley Scott DeMaria

Haley Scott DeMaria, whose story of recovery from paralysis following the 1992 Notre Dame swim team bus crash has inspired thousands, will receive the 2015 Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development Award on Monday, October 19. The presentation will take place at 11:30 a.m. in the Bayada Atrium of the Mirenda Center.


In January 1992, the Notre Dame swim team was on its way back to campus after a meet at Northwestern University. In icy conditions, the bus slid off the road and turned over. Two young women were killed, and DeMaria (then Haley Scott) suffered a broken back and paralysis. Doctors told her that she would be in the hospital for a year and that a full recovery meant walking with braces for the rest of her life.


Scott defied the odds and the experts. Through several surgeries and grueling physical therapy, she recovered. Miraculously, on October 29, 1993 (less than two years after the accident), Scott swam in a meet for Notre Dame and won her heat.

Each year, the Institute Award recognizes outstanding contributions in athletics. Recipients exhibit strong character, exemplify spirituality, and embody the good that exists in sports. According to Lee DelleMonache, director of the Institute, “DeMaria’s courage and hope in the face of enormous adversity speaks directly to the seeds of character and faith that the Institute strives to plant in the Neumann University community.”


DeMaria first visited Neumann in June 2014 as a keynote speaker at the National Catholic Education Association Soul of Youth Sport Symposium. “I was so impressed that a university would have an entire institute dedicated to the spirituality of sport,” said DeMaria. “While my story is one of courage and athletics, it is the faith aspect of my journey that I most enjoy sharing. In my life, sport and faith are intertwined, and it is a great honor to be recognized with an award that represents all I hope to share and exemplify in my life.”

DeMaria will also address Neumann’s student athletes in a 7:30 p.m. event on the evening of October 19. That presentation is also free and open to the community. Her full story is available in her book, What Though the Odds (a line from the Notre Dame fight song). ┬áHer story is currently in pre-production for a feature film, as well, and will be only the third movie ever filmed at the University of Notre Dame.


She won several awards for her recovery and return to swimming: the Spirit of Notre Dame Award, the Executive Journal Comeback of the Year Award (1993), The Honda Award for Inspiration (1993-94), and The Gene Autry Courage in Sport Award (1994), among others. She was named Woman of the Year at the National Women’s Leadership Conference in Washington DC (June 1994) and a Fellow at the Institute for International Sport in Rhode Island (June 1995).


In 2014, the Institute received an anonymous donation to present the award every year in honor of the late Joseph P. McFadden, Bishop of Harrisburg. “As we discerned people who exemplify Bishop McFadden’s belief in the transformative power of sports, Haley Scott DeMaria was the first to come to mind,” said DelleMonache. “We could not be more proud to honor Haley and her faith journey. We believe her story is a great educational opportunity for our students and the greater community, and look forward to working with Haley in spreading her message.”


Past recipients of the Institute Award are the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation (2014), Ann Donovan, three-time Olympic Gold Medal winner (2013), Coaches vs. Cancer of Philadelphia (2012), and Keith Primeau, a former captain of the Philadelphia Flyers (2011).



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