Joseph Boniello, 12, was born with agenesis of the corpus collosum (ACC), a rare brain disorder that leaves many children dead or permanently disabled. The avid bowler was recently named a finalist in a sportsmanship essay contest presented by New York Sports Connection.
(NEW YORK) – July 14, 2016 – When Joseph Boniello, 12, became a finalist in a sportsmanship essay contest, the contest’s sponsor was impressed with his dedication to his favorite sport, bowling. Aaron Finkel, of New York Sports Connection, was even more impressed when he discovered that Joseph had overcome a rare birth defect that leaves some children unable to walk or talk. “We judge the essays anonymously,” Finkel explains, “so we didn’t learn of Joseph’s challenges until after he had been named a finalist.”
Presented by New York Sports Connection ― the City’s hub for youth sports ― the essay contest is in its second year and attracts entries from throughout the City from students and athletes ages 12 through 18. Joseph, who attends St. Luke’s School in Whitefield, was a finalist in the Sixth & Seventh Grade category.
Joseph was born with agenesis of the corpus collosum (ACC), a rare birth defect in which the two halves of the brain are not connected to each other because the band of nerves called the corpus collosum doesn’t form. His mother, Michelle Boniello, was told after his premature birth that children with his condition may not survive their first birthday. “If they do, they may not develop normally—may not walk, talk, or smile,” she adds. “Many have intellectual impairments or seizure disorders.” But the Bayside resident has beat all odds to become a good student, an avid bowler and baseball player who wants to be a professional bowler when he grows up.
Joseph still faces daily obstacles. He finds the physical aspects of reading and writing difficult, so he learns by listening, and he dictated his winning essay to a special education tutor to type. Like many children born with ACC, Joseph also had hearing loss. He didn’t start talking until age two, after his hearing loss was finally diagnosed and corrected. “He hasn’t shut up since,” his mother jokes.
With extensive physical therapy and special education intervention, Joseph has excelled beyond all expectations. “We noticed when he was about three that he was very agile, which is remarkable because the two halves of his brain can’t coordinate with each other,” says Michelle. “He was riding a scooter at three, and at four he started bowling. He’s very passionate about it―his high score so far is a 210.”
Joseph’s accomplishments were recognized by contest judge Craig Carton, the WFAN radio sports talk legend and co-host of Boomer and Carton. After learning what Joseph had overcome to enter New York Sports Connection’s sportsmanship essay contest, Carton invited the young athlete, his older brother Justin―both fans of the show―and their mother Michelle to watch a live broadcast from the studio at the CBS flagship station. Carton and his co-host, Boomer Esiason, met and took pictures with their young fans during a commercial break during their broadcast on July 13, 2016.
“Sportsmanship is the respect we show to one another while playing the sports that we love,” Joseph says in his essay. “The word sportsmanship almost sounds like the word friendship, but in sports. Just as we would treat our friends with kindness and respect that is how we should treat our teammates or those we are playing with or against.”
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Note to Editors: Photos of Joseph Boniello with Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason are available from New York Sports Connection. Please contact Aaron Finkel for a copy.
Founded by a Manhattan father of two young athletes, NewYorkSportsConnection.com is the most comprehensive interactive resource for families and youth sports organizations in New York City. Users can search for information on sports leagues, teams, classes and activities, ask questions of others in the community, and read pertinent content on the local sports community. The site’s Weekly Sports Alert email keeps members up-to-date on upcoming deadlines for tryouts, sign-up/registration periods, clinics, camps and other sports-related events.