The end of OctoberHalloween day to be exactwill mark 40 years since the tragic turn of events that transformed Ken Kunken's life into one marked by inspiration and motivation.
"I try to encourage people to meet their challenges head on; to not be afraid to take chances and make difficult choices. To try and continue to dream what's possible and keep expectations high," said Kunken.
Kunken was 20 years old in 1970. He was playing sprint football at Cornell University when he broke his neck during a football game, severing his spinal cord and rendering him a quadriplegic, almost entirely paralyzed from the shoulders down. With such a debilitating injury at such a young age, he could easily have given up.
But he didn't, and now as a deputy bureau chief for the Nassau County district attorney, Kunken's name is forever attached to the Allegiance Bowl's MVP Award, given out at the end of the annual Collegiate Sprint Football League's Allegiance Bowl game held in Saratoga Springs. This year's game features Navy and Penn facing off.
"I'm very honored this award has been named after me. It's very humbling to know people look at me with those eyes that I can inspire and motivate people and that's encouraged me to actually do that and try to speak to groups and organizations throughout country," said Kunken, who has attended the event for the past five years. "The people of Saratoga Springs have been so warm and supportive and we look forward to coming back every fall."
On Friday, Oct. 1, Kunken will speak about "determination, inspiration and grit" at 10:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn in Saratoga Springs in the Exacta and Quinella Rooms. Members of the Navy's football team will be on hand as well as Charles Wait, Kunken's former fraternity brother and chairman and CEO of Adirondack Trust, a main sponsor of the Allegiance Bowl.