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June 19, 2012

Solis honored by Patriots paying it forward

Andre Tippett, pro football Hall of Famer and former linebacker for the New England Patriots; Luis Solis, MVP Volunteer of the Year Award Winner; Zoltan Mesko, Patriots’ punter; and Ginger Katz, CEO and Founder of the Courage to Speak Foundation. Photo: Contributed Photo / CT

Sixteen volunteers from across New England, including Louis Solis of Norwalk, were honored as Myra Kraft “Community MVPs” by the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation in a ceremony at Gillette Stadium last week.

The “Community MVP” Awards, a program for the past 12 years, honor individuals who exemplify leadership, dedication and a commitment to improving their communities through volunteerism.

Solis, the owner of Norwalk Pizza and Pasta and Don Carmelo’s Mexican Grill, received the award after being nominated for his exceptional community service and years of dedicated volunteerism to the Courage to Speak Foundation.

The Courage to Speak Foundation, founded by Ginger Katz of Norwalk, along with experts in the field, has created drug prevention programs for students in elementary, middle and high school as well as for parents. Katz created the foundation after losing her son, Ian, to drugs in 1996.

“Louis pushed and pushed me to make sure Courage to Speak – Courageous Parenting 101 was translated into Spanish and every year he and his wife would buy Sunny’s Story, our drug prevention book and distributed them in the schools,” Katz said. “He is very dedicated to keeping kids safe and off drugs. We depend on our volunteers especially because funding is so tight. Ian’s Memorial Nine-Mile Race is coming up at Calf Pasture Beach July 28 and we find it harder and harder to raise funds.”

Patriots’ Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, Patriots Charitable Foundation President Josh Kraft, Pro Football Hall of Famer and Patriots Executive Director of Community Affairs Andre Tippett, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and punter Zoltan Mesko were all on hand at a luncheon to congratulate the winners, who were collectively awarded $100,000 in grants for their charities.

In 2011, the Kraft family and New England Patriots Charitable Foundation announced the renaming of the awards as the Myra Kraft “Community MVPs” in honor of Myra’s example of being a lifelong volunteer. She died in 2011.

“Volunteers are the unsung heroes of our nonprofit communities,” said Robert Kraft. “Unfortunately, they often go unrecognized for their contributions. These awards give us a chance to thank and recognize them. What I love most about this event is the touching stories and the opportunity to show a small token of our appreciation to these outstanding individuals.”

Lou Cimaglia, Sr., a volunteer at Local Heroes in Wilmington, Mass., was the grand prize winner, earning $25,000 for the association. The five runners up received $10,000 for their charities and the 10 additional MVPs, including Solis, were awarded $2,500 for their charities.

Get in touch
For more information, email Ginger Katz at  or call (877) 431-3295. And go to Contact Colchester Youth Services at or by calling (860) 537-7255