On December 7, four days before receiving Parkville YouthOrganization’s Pete Albinase Memorial Award for his commitment anddedication to [his] teammates and the sport of football,nine-year-old Nicholas Mendez had major surgery on his legs toattempt to lengthen his hamstrings.
Already forced to wear a leg brace until he stops growing due tocomplications at birth resulting in cerebral palsy on his rightside, the surgery left Mendez confined to a cast. He contemplatedskipping Parkville’s Full Tackle Football Awards Luncheon held atthe St. Rosalia – Regina Pacis gym at 65th Street between 12th and13th Avenue.
He didn’t want to come to the ceremony in a wheelchair,recalled Parkville’s Executive Director of Public Relations RobertCavaliere. [His mother] convinced him to come anyway. When theymentioned his name, all the players stood up cheering, applauding.I thought the walls were going to fall down.
As Mendez walked to the front of the crowded gym in his leg castto receive the award, it was just another challenge he has tackledin his young life.
I can still play sports even though I wear a leg brace, hesaid.
The Sunset Park youth, who attends P.S. 372, has never let hisdisability slow him down, said his mother, Marie Skelly.
He doesn’t feel anything is wrong with him and I think it giveshim more and more confidence every day, Skelly said, regardingParkville’s program. He loves football.
According to Cavaliere, Mendez is the epitome of what theathletic organization is all about.
This kid went in when his coach wanted him and he was 110percent in that game, he said, adding: Every [Parkville] coachsays the same thing: I wish I had 12 more players like that on theteam.’
Although Mendez says football is his favorite sport to play, healso plays baseball for the Wolf Pack, a Brooklyn Angels YouthOrganization team that his mother’s fiancé Joe Colon coaches, andhe attended Manhattan Fencing Center over the summer.
Although Skelly says her son was a bit tentative when he firstgot involved in the Parkville football program, she recalls that hegot over it quickly.
He was a little hesitant like he is with every sport, Skellysaid. But once he gets into it, he really goes full force andgives his all.