Italian Brothers Dario and Franco Leo will run their first New York City Marathon on November 6, 2022
Franco and Dario are two Italian brothers from Campania. Franco was born with spastic tetraparesis and is confined to a wheelchair, but he’s always had a dream to be an athlete. Now, his dream to be able to run will come true thanks to his younger brother who will push his modified wheelchair down the streets of the Big Apple to run the 26.2-mile New York City Marathon.
A UNITED FAMILY
At birth, a botched medical intervention caused by forceps forever limited Francesco, known as Franco, to walk, move, speak and be able to live a normal life. He is the eldest son, born to a young mother, Lucietta, and a father, Vito, who after him, had another four children.
Franco, who is 6 foot 3 inches tall and weighs 198 pounds, has a typical athlete’s body, but he sees the world from a wheelchair. He and his family live in Italy, in Bellizzi, a town in the province of Salerno. From this point of view of the world, Franco, despite his disability, works tirelessly thanks to a PC and a mouse. He paints, particularly religious subjects, writes (he published a book titled “God speaks to the world through a disabled person”) and deals with his complicated daily life with a smile on his face.
A MISSING SMILE
Franco’s smile is the same smile his brother Dario, who is several years younger than him, must have missed during the long and troubled period of the forced 2020 lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was then that Dario had the luminous and beautiful idea of giving his brother the opportunity to run. Sport is a formidable medicine, capable of making diseases of the body and spirit more bearable. Even the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyla – who in a slightly faded photo, caresses and blesses Franco as a boy – seemed to think so. He, a lover of the mountains and of skiing, used to say that “to love God is to run towards Him for a wonderful journey.”
Dario, a former basketball player, founded the SognoAttivo (“active dream” in English) Foundation to help his brother and all those who live with the same disability. After his idea, he began to train everyday to realize Franco’s dream of participating in the New York Marathon on November 6. Dario’s training requires that he run 6 to 18 miles a day, eat a healthy diet and have a lot of passion.
Manuel Borea, a craftsman from Reggio Emilia, built a special racing wheelchair specifically for Franco. The cost was borne by the Carisal Foundation of Salerno who donated it to the two brothers. Giuseppe Rinaldi, CEO of Isolkappa, a plastic fabrication company, signed a partnership with the Leo brothers to be their main sponsor for their American trip. “We are happy to be able to support the Leo brothers in this splendid adventure,” said Rinaldi. “This is not a duty, but a piece of the road to travel together. I like to think that this challenge can be replicated to be of help to many other Francos and Darios who have a desire to look beyond the obstacle.”
The Campania company is at the forefront of supporting this story of brotherly love – a pairing that provides a roadmap to realizing the American dream.
A DREAM THAT BECOMES A REALITY
The two brothers expect a lot of support, cheering and human warmth, both in Italy and in the United States. The road from Italy to the long-awaited destination of New York City is still long. In addition to realizing his own dreams, Franco hopes to reify the dreams of many other men and women with similar disabilities. He hopes that through sport, they will have the opportunity to live fully and with a smile.
New York awaits you both. If dreams are wishes for happiness, then happiness is already here.
Translated by: Asia London Palomba