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Photo courtesy of Freelance Public Relation Services
A 12-year-old boy has beaten a rare brain disease and is now a finalist in a sports essay contest.

Hats off to one tenacious preteen who defeated a rare brain disorder that usually leaves children dead or permanently disabled. The victorious boy is currently a finalist in a New York Sports Connection sportsmanship essay contest.

Joseph Boniello, 12, was born with agenesis of the corpus collosum (ACC), a congenital disorder where an undeveloped band of nerves leaves the two halves of the brain disconnected. Many doctors anticipate that several children born with ACC will not survive past their first birthday. Those who do survive may not be able to walk or talk and are likely to endure seizures.

Nonetheless, Joseph’s condition did not discourage him from becoming an energetic bowler and baseball player. With extensive physical therapy and special education, he defied all odds stacked against him.

The Bayside resident who attends St. Luke’s School in Whitefield became a finalist in the sixth- and seventh-grade category of the sportsmanship essay contest, sponsored by New York Sports Connection. The contest, now in its second year, receives citywide entries from students and athletes ages 12 through 18.

Joseph’s dedication impressed the contest sponsor and his accomplishments were recognized by contest judge Craig Carton, the WFAN radio sports talk legend and co-host of Boomer and Carton. Touched by Joseph’s story, Carton invited the young athlete, his mother Michelle and older brother Justin to watch a live broadcast recorded at the studio of the CBS flagship station. Carton and his co-host, Boomer Esiason, greeted and took pictures with their young fans during a commercial break in between the broadcast on July 13, 2016.

Despite Joseph’s enthusiasm and athleticism, he still encounters daily obstacles. He faces reading and writing challenges and learns by listening. Like other children born with ACC, Joseph was diagnosed with hearing loss which was later corrected, and did not start talking until age 2.

“He hasn’t shut up since,” his mother Michelle joked in Thursday’s press release.

“We noticed when he was about 3 that he was very agile, which is remarkable because the two halves of his brain can’t coordinate with each other,” Michelle said in describing her son Joseph, who is a good student and aspiring professional bowler. “He was riding a scooter at 3, and at 4 he started bowling. He’s very passionate about it―his high score so far is a 210.”

The young winner’s heartwarming essay was dictated by Joseph and typed by his special education tutor. “Sportsmanship is the respect we show to one another while playing the sports that we love,” Joseph wrote 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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