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Athlete and Aspiring Surgeon Earns Scholarship




As a younger brother watching his siblings compete from the sidelines, Joe was inspired to run, regardless of the fact that he struggled to walk. Born with muscles and ligaments that were too tight, Joe walked on the insides of his ankles. His doctors said as he grew and his muscles and ligaments continued to tighten, walking would become harder, and he eventually might not be able to do so without assistance.

Joe remembers one inspiring moment: “I was in first grade,” said Joe. “We were at a varsity race, and it was very muddy. It looked like so much fun!” Joe made up his mind that one day he was going to do that. After the race, the coach said to Joe, “I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

Joe began receiving care at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Erie when he was 5. He wore casts for the first eight weeks of treatment and then moved on to leg braces, which he wore for many years, followed by inserts. He also had physical therapy, which helped him remain mobile and flexible and built up muscle in his legs.

By the time Joe was in seventh grade, he was running cross country. “My first goal in cross country was just to finish the race,” said Joe. “I came in 20 minutes behind everyone else.” By his senior year of high school, he was team captain for his cross country team. “My cross country coach always told me to believe in myself,” said Joe. “All the support I had got me to where I am today.”

Joe is attending Gannon University in Erie to study health sciences. He was nominated by the athletic director and received a district 10 athletic scholarship. Joe hopes to become an orthopaedic surgeon one day because of his experience with the Erie Shriners Hospital.