Community effort enables youth to make his way in world

Source: STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

Groups pool resources, provide 10-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy a van to help him cope with disease

John Scaglione is the only 10-year-old in his South Beach neighborhood with a brand new set of wheels — a freshly donated navy blue 2003 GMC Savana van, equipped with a ramp, television screen and DVD player.

“It’s overwhelming,” said John’s father, Leo Scaglione, of the gift. “There really are some great people out there.”

John has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rapid progression of muscle degeneration that occurs early in life. Although he can walk and stand for short periods of time, he has difficulty with long treks, for which he requires a Rally scooter. The new van, and the motorized ramp it comes with, will make the scooter easier to transport.

“It’s really nice,” John said, looking at the van with a wide smile on his face.

Besides his family, John was joined in inaugurating the vehicle yesterday by Teddy Atlas, Ken Mitchell and Joe Fama from the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation; David Ceci, vice president of Northfield Savings Bank, and City Councilman Michael McMahon (D-North Shore).

The Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, a charitable organization, was founded by Teddy Atlas, the Staten Island fight trainer and TV boxing analyst, as a tribute to his late father.

“This is a great story of Teddy’s foundation, Staten Island institutions, a politician and community activists getting together to get something good done, “McMahon said. “I’m very proud to be a Staten Islander.”

The van was funded by the Atlas Foundation with help from SI Bank & Trust Foundation, Richmond County Savings Foundation, Northfield Savings Bank and the Staten Island Advance, as well as local residents and merchants. It was procured and outfitted with a motorized ramp and entertainment system by Alpine Auto in Brooklyn. Soundsation in Mariners Harbor provided a remote starter and alarm system for the car.

According to McMahon, the entire package cost about $40,000. John’s mother, Michelle Scaglione, said the young boy is taking steroid treatments so that he won’t require full-time use of a wheelchair — but the scooter is heavy, and it is needed if he wants to do something that otherwise would involve a lot of walking, like shopping.

“It was very spontaneous,” she said of his disease. “It doesn’t run in the family, and when he was 6 years old he was diagnosed. It was a total shock, but we wouldn’t trade him in for the world.” According to Sean Sweeney, secretary for the Atlas Foundation, John’s father contacted him before the group’s annual dinner in November, asking for assistance in purchasing a used van.

After the dinner, Sweeney said, the foundation realized a brand-new van wasn’t out of reach, thanks to an outpouring of support. “It’s a wonderful thing, to see people reach into their pockets like this, after they had reached so many times before,” he said. “This will really help improve John’s quality of life.”

Right now, John only has one DVD — “My Cousin Vinny” — but Atlas promises to pick him up a few more, as well as boxing tickets, and a set of tickets to the next matchup between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, John’s favorite team.

“He wants the ‘Godfather Trilogy’ and ‘Anger Management,'” Atlas said.

“We’re going to take care of that for him.

“I’m really proud of all the people on Staten Island who have stepped up to help us out with this.”

TAIL: Rob Hart is a news reporter for the Advance. He may be reached at rhart@siadvance.com.

CAP: Teddy Atlas, whose foundation helped fund John Scaglione’s new van, gives the youngster a big hug

CRED: Jan Somma

CAP: Leo Scaglione shows off the van outside his South Beach home

CAP: John Scaglione gets a high five from his grandmother, Patricia Sullivan. Also with the South Beach 10 year old are his mother, Michelle, David Ceci, center, of the Northfield Savings Bank, and John’s father Leo.