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Poem by Renee Springhorne

Community continues support for Watchung Hills' Riccio
By Harry Frezza Jr
Published in the Courier News on May 18, 2003

It's not just the athletic community that opened its heart to Watchung Hills High School junior Carl Riccio after a wrestling injury left him paralyzed in February. It has been the entire community, whether or not people know Carl and his family.

Letters of support have come from all over the country, some posted on the Internet site dedicated to him, others through regular mail.

Actor Christopher Reeve, an incredible example of someone who has fought such a terrible injury, receives treatment at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, where Carl is recovering. Reeve, who was paralyzed eight years ago in an equestrian competition, recently stopped in Carl's room to talk about their challenges.

A special night in Carl's honor will be held at Mayfair Farms in West Orange from 7-11 p.m. on May 27. The benefit fund-raiser is entitled "Carl, the Ultimate Warrior, Riccio." Guests will be able to bid on items for auction, including tickets to sporting events, sports memorabilia, travel, fashion, home decor, membership to fitness clubs and more.

"The silent auction will include a round of golf at Plainfield Country Club, Baltusrol and Roxiticus (in Mendham) and more," said Denise Cappuccio, who is spearheading the effort. "We'll also be auctioning tickets for sporting events from the Trenton Thunder and minor league baseball like the Somerset Patriots to the Yankees and Mets series this summer."

Tickets may be purchased for $100 per person at Sports Minded Unlimited and Warren Health and Racquet Club in Warren. Tickets can also be purchased through the official Carl Riccio Web site at Carl may attend the event briefly, his father, Pete, said.

Pete, his wife, Tricia, and their children were a very close family before the injury and have been strengthened in their resolve since it happened. Their son injured his spinal chord and progress, while slow, has been made, Pete Riccio said.

Carl is doing well for his condition, eating, raising the spirits of those who visit him and leaving people feeling better when their visits are complete.

"Carl has always been a unique person to me, but I'm his father," Pete Riccio said. "For 17 years the kid has always had a smile. He's never had a fight like this. Everything he has known has been destroyed -- the activities, the regular teenage things -- but he's working on getting stronger. He needs to keep working on those muscles."

Pete Riccio thinks about the athletic objectives Carl had that can't be achieved, such as 100 career wins in wrestling and 100 career hits in baseball. Carl Riccio was also an outstanding third baseman and was rated among the better young players in the state.

Pete Riccio, a passionate proponent of children with a love of sports shared by his children, now thinks differently. He sighed when he recalled that Carl had never missed a game or match because of an injury, "not even a sprained ankle," he said.

"I go to Shane's games now," said Pete Riccio, referring to one of his four sons. "I don't care if he goes 2-for-4 or 0-for-4, I say to him, 'Did you have fun?'

The Riccios are dedicating their lives to getting Carl back on his feet. The injury has dramatically changed everything for them. Pete said the family is in the process of planning to modify their home so it can accommodate Carl's needs. He has spoken to doctors all over the world, in China, Australia, Russia and Portugal, with hopes of finding cures.

In the meantime, Carl regains his weight, his appetite is good, his outlook is great and his affect on his parents, brothers and sister and those who stop by has been incredible.

"Every single new thing he does, whether it's a new chair, a new exercise, its like 'Dad, look at this, look at the way this works,'" Pete Riccio said. "Every new thing he does, he's unbelievable."

© 2006 Carl Riccio Special Needs Trust