16 Year Old and his battle with SMA

by James Floreani

He isn’t your average teenager, however. He wakes up every morning to the reality of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic disease that has robbed him of his physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord.

He was diagnosed at the age of 9 months with type 1 SMA, the most severe of the four types, and his parents were told that he’d be lucky to see his second birthday. He beat the odds and lives his life in a power wheelchair.

Though he needs assistance to complete simple everyday tasks people take for granted, Cavallaro is one of the most positive individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. His contagious smile brings out the best in people and his joy of living is something people could truly learn from. Cavallaro is not one to mope around and feel sorry for himself. Instead, according to his father, Cavallaro has become quite the young entrepreneur, growing his Instagram page @sickhighlights to a staggering 1.7 million followers in just under two years. The account features sports highlights but is dominated by Cavallaro’s favourite sport, football. “Football at my house is like a religion. Every Sunday, my whole family, my friends and my cousin, they come over and we watch football the whole day. We eat in front of the TV, it’s a big part of our lives and I love it,” Cavallaro said.

Cavallaro has taken advantage of his massive following and launched a clothing and lifestyle brand called Sick Attire. A portion of the proceeds gained through the brand is donated to families with SMA. But this is not the only way Cavallaro and his family give back to the SMA community.

He and his family have raised over $1.3 million for SMA research in that last 13 years. Most of these funds come from hosting an annual event called Sammy’s Valentine’s Gala, held in February each year. “We do a gala every year for the past 13 years, we raise funds for my disease (SMA), it’s a really fun party, we got a DJ and some famous people come to perform.’’

I was in attendance at this year’s gala this past February, and is it ever a party! The sold out event was held at Plaza Volare in Saint-Laurent and included a live performance by Robin S. With tons of great food, great music, great people, great items for auction, and a wedding-like ambiance, it’s no wonder the event has been such a hit. Take it from me, I’ll definitely be back next year!

“My favourite saying is ‘Every day is a good day,’ as long as you stay positive, always keep your head up, sometimes it could be tough, but you have to keep going through it,’’ Cavallaro said. Thank you for the reminder, Sammy. You are an inspiration to all of us.

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