19th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards

Celebrate the best in Cleveland Sports! Greater Cleveland Sports Awards is the premier annual sports fundraising event in Cleveland.

Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Courage Award

Meet the 2017 Courage Award recipient: Samer Babi 












Samer Babi is a senior captain on the North Olmsted High School football team. As a strong competitor and leader, Samer's teammates describe him as having an "infectious personality" and that "you can't help but smile when you're around him." 

While preparing for his senior season, he began to feel pain in his jaw. After a few failed prognoses, Babi's symptoms worsened and he was rushed to the emergency room. An MRI revealed the mass the size of a tennis ball in his right parotid gland. 

The day before his prom, Cleveland Clinic informed Samer he had Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) - a type of cancer so rare that Babi has yet to meet a patient with the same diagnosis.

"[Babi] is the most positive and inspiring patient I have ever met," said Marta Bodnaruk, RN, a Cleveland Clinic Children's pediatric nurse. "Even when he is feeling sick, he still has a smile on his face and jokes to tell. He has been through so much and yet has the most positive attitude about it." 

Even though he cannot play, Babi can be found with a smile on his face at practices and motivating his teammates on the sidelines during games. He also led the school's Kick It For Cancer program, a fundraiser that helps raise money every time their kicker scores in a game. 

Babi is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for his stage IV RMS and attends schools as often as possible. He hopes to major in finance and play rugby in college. 

"I make it a point to never complain about my circumstances or how I am feeling, as it could always be worse," said Babi. "[I'm] living by the motto my late coach had always said to our team, 'Don't complain, don't ask why.'"

Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Courage Award is awarded to an athlete who displays courage beyond the boundaries of their playing field, in order to inspire those around them. 

Previous Courage Award Winners:

2017: Samer Babi, North Olmsted, Football - SamerStrong Memorial Foundation

2016: Kendra SeitzCompetitive Swimming

2015: Colin TeetsWestlake, Hockey

2014: Nick LenyoHuron, Football

2013: Courteney BelmonteWestlake, Competitive Cheerleading 

2012: Molly MillerNotre Dame Academy, Soccer

2011: Brandee Kelly, Cleveland State University, Basketball 

2010: Olivia Warhop, Hathaway Brown School, Swimming & Soccer

2009: Gyasi Cooper, St. Ignatius High School, Track & Field 

2008: Eric Anderson, Jr., Gilmour Academy, Basketball