Four-year-old Anthony Muoio is showing off his moves and gear.
“This is my soccer shirt,” he explains. “This is a soccer ball with names on it.”
“These teams are great for the kids because it’s giving them a support system, saying you’re going to go through these difficult times but you won’t be alone,” says Anthony’s mom, Sarah.
“He went into the hospital the day before he was 5 months old,” she says, explaining Anthony’s past. “He’d been sick for a week by the time he went into the hospital. It had progressed so far he was basically lifeless.”
Anthony had a 50% chance of surviving a 9 hour surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. He suffered a stroke. His future was uncertain.
“5 or 6 days out of brain surgery, he’s sitting there smiling and I can’t even comprehend how he just had this surgery,” says Sarah. “It put life into perspective.”
That attitude has continued even though Anthony now struggles with epilepsy.
Sarah says the family was inspired by a picture they were given: “It said, ‘Some days you have to create your own sunshine.'”
The Muoio’s created Anthony’s Army, giving other families support.
“It’s not easy, it’s scary, it’s a team that gets you through this,” says father, Robert.
They donate Bags of Hope – containing blankets and snacks – to Yale New Haven Hospital where Anthony was treated.
“We felt we should give-back to the parents struggling like we struggled,” he says.
Anthony is now a charming little guy, gearing-up for kindergarten.
“He’s very outgoing, caring,” says Robert.
The message? Appreciate every day, be grateful for help and be sure to pay it forward.
“If he can help another child or another family, he hasn’t gone through this in vain,” says Sarah.
Anthony connected with the Fairfield University Stags through an organization called Friends of Jaclyn. His mom believes he inspires the team by showing them anything is possible.