“This is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain and all the moms who let them.” — Benj Pasek, cowriter of “La La Land” at the 2017 Academy Awards
This quote made me smile while watching the acceptance speech at the Oscars last night. It reminded me of people in my life that are free spirits. And this morning while on the phone with Vincenzo it reminded me of him (and his amazing mother who has always been so supportive of him).
I have known Vincenzo for years. We were introduced by a mutual friend. While in the hospital in 2010 Vincenzo fell, injuring his spinal cord and paralyzing his right side of his body. After his injury I did my best to introduce Vincenzo to others with SCI/D and he has attended many BACKBONES events over the years when he was feeling well. He’s had tough times, as many of us do, with adjusting to SCI life and also dealing with muscular dystrophy among other illnesses. Over the past year I have been so happy to see my friend begin to shine. Vincenzo has exercised and worked hard on his own in various ways to build up his energy and strength. He’s transitioned from a power chair to a manual that he can push using both arms. He has learned to drive and I can see this new found independence brings him joy and satisfaction. Vincenzo recently started in the Adaptive Rowing program and he participates in trainings with Dare2Tri, an organization that helps train para triathletes. And now… Vincenzo dances!
In November 2016 BACKBONES hosted an Inclusive Dance Workshop called Dance Revolution with Momenta Dance Company in Oak Park, IL, an all abilities company that promotes inclusiveness and the idea that everybody can dance. I was initially surprised to see Vincenzo register for the workshop and soon found out this is right where he feels at home. Turns out the performing arts have been a part of Vincenzo ever since he was a child starting in a drama club that led him to land a part in The Music Man on Theater on the Lake along with acting on the TV series Early Edition. When he was old enough he began singing and performing in the Chicago All City Elementary Youth and High School choir traveling to Atlanta Georgia to win 1st place in the national choral competition as well as performing at Ravinia and The Symphony Center. As he studied to perfect his voice he landed the opportunity to perform at the Lyric Opera of Chicago! He learned dance from dance instructors at Columbia College and the Mayor Daley’s Show Choir- he LOVES performing and was longing for the day to make his return to the stage!
Vincenzo called me to thank me a couple weeks ago for that dance workshop. Since that event he has joined Momenta Dance company and will be performing for the first time with them. He called to invite me to his performance! This just makes my heart full!
Vincenzo said, “It is a wonderful company that promotes everybody can dance. I can no longer be an EMT, but I have other talents…and with the right tools I can do it. My goal is to inspire others with disabilities to pursue their dreams. Those who have new injuries may think they can’t do things but they can push boundaries and redefine disability. No matter what anybody says or how hard life gets, it will get better, even if a little bit! Cherish it.”
If you are in the Chicago area and want to catch Vincenzo’s performance March 2017 click here!
BACKBONES exists to help people with SCI/D connect with their community after injury, just like Vincenzo has. What are the things you LOVE? Get motivated and go for them! We are here to help! How can we support your journey?
By Reveca Torres
BACKBONES Executive Director
Photo by Lisa Bradley Green