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Frankie Anzaldi

Frankie Anzaldi runs in the NYC Half Marathon March 17. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

Since he was very young, limits were placed on Frankie Anzaldi, a 16-year-old Rocky Point High School student. When he was in kindergarten, doctors said Anzaldi would never be able to tie his own shoes, but each time he was told he couldn’t do something he has consistently proved the doubters wrong, all despite his epilepsy and seizures. 

Anzaldi has no limits, and he’s ambitious — always looking for the next goal to tackle. With that attitude, he has become an accomplished trombone player and on this past St. Patrick’s Day March 17 he participated in the New York City Half Marathon representing Athletes Without Limits, an organization supporting athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Frankie Anzaldi runs with his friend and trombone tutor Michel Nadeau. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

Frankie’s journey to the NYC Half Marathon began simple enough, with a visit to the Stony Brook men’s soccer team after he was named its honorary captain three years ago. It was his interactions with the team in the gym, working out with them, that helped spur his decision to start running. 

“I never thought it would be running,”
Anzaldi’s mother Michelle said. “Out of the blue he said he wanted to go running — so we brought him to the track.”

The 16-year-old’s mother said when they first brought him to the track in July 2016, her son could barely run a mile. But the persistent teenager kept at it, and later decided he wanted to run a race. 

“We found a fun race, a 1K. He did the race and he loved it,” his mother said. 

For that race, Anzaldi ran for the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Track Team. Three months later, he became a member of the team and represented it at the Suffolk County Half Marathon. 

The co-founder of Athletes Without Limits, Barry Holman, happened to be at the race and met the Anzaldi family. The teenager saw one of the organization’s slogan of “No limits” and he adopted it  as his own and has since lived by it. Many of his posts on Instagram, a social media platform, feature the hashtag, #nolimits.  

Frank Anzaldi, the runner’s father, marveled at the progression his son has made in a short amount of time.  

“He just worked at it — went from barely running one mile to thirteen miles,” Anzaldi’s father said.  

The NYC Half Marathon was his fifth half marathon in three years, and despite how long he’s been at it, Anzaldi is still out on the track every week training. 

“Training was really intense — he was running close to 40 miles a week,” he said. 

Frankie Anzaldi after receiving medal in NYC Half Marathon. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

In training for his first NYC Half Marathon, Anzaldi received virtual coaching from the Badger Track Club, a club based in Madison, Wisconsin, whose main focus is to teach, train and educate athletes in track and field, cross country and road racing.  

“He’s was being virtually coached by Scott Brinen; he’s worked with special needs athletes before,” his father said. “I was put in touch with them through Athletes Without Limits.”

The young man told them he wanted to run another half marathon and his improve his run time, and soon the club helped Anzaldi with a workout plan which included speed and distance training as well as working out in the gym. According to young Anzaldi, it got him in the best shape he’s ever been. 

At the marathon, Anzaldi was joined by his longtime trombone tutor and friend, Michel Nadeau, who is a music teacher in the Commack School District, who just so happened to be a runner himself. 

Nadeau met him five years ago when the Anzaldis were looking for a trombone tutor for their son. The family called Nadeau a godsend, as he helped the teenager learn how to play the trombone by modifying music notes so he could read them. Nadeau taught their son how to read music even before he could read a book. 

“Two years ago, Frankie started running and [his parents] didn’t know I was a runner as well, so it was kind of cool,” Nadeau said.   

Because of Anzaldi, Nadeau was motivated to run in the Suffolk Half Marathon two years ago and ran it again with him this past November. Nadeau also trained with Anzaldi for his fifth half marathon. Training sessions consisted of running for eight miles, three times a week, according to the music teacher. 

“Frankie doesn’t say no to anything, and he’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve met in my life,” Nadeau said. “It’s been really fun working and running with someone that has no quit in them.”

A little more than a month before the race, Anzaldi’s father received a call from Athletes Without Limits asking if the 16-year-old could represent the national team at the marathon. The teenager said absolutely, and he was excited for the race to run past NYU Hospital where his doctors and surgeons work. He would also be running past the windows of other patients he knew personally and was excited to show them what he has accomplished. 

Frankie Anzaldi and his friend and trombone teacher Michel Nadeau after receiving medal in NYC Half Marathon. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

With five half marathons under his belt, the freshman in high school has already expressed his desire to do more. One of his goals is to represent the United States in an international competition. 

A first chair trombone player in middle school last year and a member of the high school marching band, Anzaldi also has dreams of being a trombone player in the Disney Marching Band. According to his mother, that is the ultimate job he wants in life. 

“It started from the get-go that limits were placed on him, and every time someone says he can’t do something, he proves them wrong,” the teenager’s mother said. 

Anzaldi’s father agreed, saying even if someone has a disability, you shouldn’t limit them. When someone believes in them great things can happen.

“They said he was never going to be able to tie his shoes and now he is tying them and running marathons,” he said.

Pete Costa on far left, with last summer’s Rocky Point’s Athletes for All group. Photo from Jean Costa

One Rocky Point couple intends to give kids with disabilities a memorable summer.

It all started with Jenny Andersson’s daughter, 13-year-old Sarah Fabricatore, who has Down syndrome.

Andersson went up to her daughter’s reading teacher, Pete Costa, at the Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School in Rocky Point, to talk to him about the lack of athletic programs for students with disabilities — and Costa took it to heart.

As a result, the varsity girls’ soccer coach and his wife Jean take time out of their summers to host Rocky Point Athletes for All, a free, once-a-week, one-hour session of fun-filled sporting events.

Frankie Anzaldi III races to drain water from a sponge into a bucket during a water-themed intermission event. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Jr.
Frankie Anzaldi III races to drain water from a sponge into a bucket during a water-themed intermission event. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Jr.

Costa brought on 10 volunteer athletes from the varsity teams at Rocky Point, and modifies different sport activities for the athletes to partake in.

“We divide the turf in half and have the kids do activities, and halfway through the hour we do a water event and then switch,” he said. “We did a bean bag toss and volleyball, now we’ll do golf and bowling; we just go down there, organize the kids and we play.”

Although the program was created just two years ago, at the end of last summer, parents asked the Costas if they would be hosting it again, so they did. This season, 22 kids signed up.

“I get a lot of positive feedback from the parents and the kids continue to come back every week,” Costa said. “There’s no stress, no winning or losing, just out there playing and having fun. This is an opportunity for them to be on the turf and experience being out there. It’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it.”

Those like Sarah have benefited from the program in more ways than one.

“It’s so amazing because she has difficulty in social situations,” Andersson said of her daughter. “Sometimes she shuts down and won’t participate, but Mr. Costa is an amazing person and got older kids involved. That collaboration — she feels safe with them. She won’t even participate in school in gym. [But this is] a positive atmosphere. Mr. Costa is a really special guy who creates such a special and fun environment for the kids.”

For others like Frank Anzaldi Jr., whose son Frankie Anzaldi III has been with the program since its inception, and is also a part of the TOPS soccer program, the Costa family has made a world of a difference in their lives.

“As a parent you just want to see your kids happy and to see them out there running around and having fun, it’s really great,” he said. “A lot of these kids face challenges every day and they struggle, but they’re all nonjudgmental and it’s so much fun. Frankie looks forward to it every week.”

An athlete leaps into a sandpit during one of last year's Athletes for All events. Photo from Jean Costa
An athlete leaps into a sandpit during one of last year’s Athletes for All events. Photo from Jean Costa

Anzaldi Jr. said he enjoys seeing how the children with disabilities put the volunteers’ lives in perspective, while the older kids help those with disabilities communicate.

“It’s nice to see them all interact,” he said.

For Andersson, she’s just happy that the district heard the voices of parents like her at board of education meetings, and found a way to help.

“He heard us telling our administrators we would like something for our kids to do,” she said of Costa. “As they get older it’s harder to get involved. They’re making a huge difference for these kids. You don’t get to see potential without opportunity, and the Costa family are truly amazing people because they showed that potential by giving the kids opportunity.”

Even son Peter Costa gets involved. The 20-year-old starts off each week with a round of Simon Says, which is a favorite part of the hour’s activities for some of the athletes.

After Wednesday’s session, which runs from 5:30-6:30 p.m., there are still three more weeks left for locals to come down. Residents can sign up through the community education flyer on the Rocky Point website, and find out more about the program on Costa’s eBoard.

“It pulled her out of her funk,” Andersson said of how Athletes for All has affected her daughter. “They are so respectful of who each child is, and don’t try to change the kids. We’re just super grateful. I love watching Sarah play, have a great time, truly enjoy it and feel respected as a person. The Costas created such a special and fun environment, and are making a huge difference in these children’s lives.”