Nov 6, 2010

John Benedetto, ex-Tottenville baseball player paralyzed in accident, will compete in NYC Marathon Sunday

Full Article from the Staten Island Advance:

Published: Saturday, November 06, 2010, 9:00 AM
john-benedetto.JPGJohn Benedetto continues his recovery from a body-surfing accident that left him paralyzed. He will use a hand cycle to compete in the New York City Marathon tomorrow.
Early in 2009, John Benedetto had begun branching out. The ardent baseball guy, a two-time Advance All Star and a major role player on Tottenville's 2001 and 2003 city PSAL champions, had discovered he "enjoyed running."
"When I got hurt, I was running for about three months. I was doing eight miles two or three times a week, and I was planning on running the New York City Marathon," he said yesterday.
Tomorrow, John will do just that, although not the way he envisioned.
His initial marathon training abruptly ended on the July Fourth weekend at the Jersey Shore. While he was body-surfing, a wave threw him down, snapping the C6 vertebra.
When the Charleston resident regained consciousness, he couldn't move any parts of his body.
But he was fortunate to be alive.
John was drowning when three friends - Josh Chaffee, Juan Sanchez and Rocco Francica - pulled him out of the water, and Jodie Rounds, a nurse, and firefighter Brian Cirillo used CPR to revive him.
In the 15 months since, Benedetto has never wanted for support from family, neighbors on his Marisa Circle block, friends, former teammates and the staff at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, N.J.
That support has helped him maintain the work ethic which was obvious at Tottenville and at John Hopkins University where had posted a 4.0 GPA while obtaining a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in business.
He describes himself as "100 times stronger" than he was three months after his injury when Tottenville coach Tom Tierney Jr., CSI coach Mike Mauro, his former teammates and friends organized a benefit game to help the family with astronomical medical bills.
"No new functions. Still paralyzed from the waist down, but my upper body is a lot stronger," he said. "I still don't have any strength in my fingers, though, and I go to Kessler twice a week.
"I told one of my therapists there about how I was preparing for the New York City Marathon, and he contacted Achilles International (an organization which uses athletics as a way to help the disabled return to a close-to-normal life).
"Through the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation, Achilles gave me a hand cycle to train with, and people to train with me.
"That was in March. I could barely do three miles," John smiled. With good reason.
Last month, he competed in the Staten Island Half-Marathon.
"An hour and 50 minutes. I felt great. When I finished, I felt like I could do it again. It was a lot of fun."
"Achilles had people run with me and Todd (Bivona, a close friend) was with me, too. Todd has been very instrumental in making this happen, He's gone above and beyond. He's even out running with me."
The Achilles folks and Bivona will be with Benedetto again tomorrow for a marathon which pales when measured against his real-life marathon to independent living.
DiBenedetto is working toward a masters degree in financial engineering at Baruch College, but he needs a driver for the commute to Manhattan.
"Kessler offers driving lessons using hand controls, and I hope to get a driver's license," he said, "but it's a long process."
Just one part of John Benedetto's life which makes tomorrow's marathon look like a walk in the park.

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