But instead of accepting the night as a celebration of his own accomplishments, Sirgiovanni decided to turn the honor over to a family who he has become particularly fond of over the past few months.
The Morabito family, who are also residents of Howard Beach, have a three-year-old son named Rocko. Sirgiovanni met the family at a fundraiser, where he discovered that Rocko has cerebral palsy, a neurologic disease that has impaired Rocko’s motor skills and left him in a wheelchair.
Since then, Sirgiovanni and the Howard Beach Kiwanis Club have hosted a number of events for the Morabito family, including inviting Rocko to be the grand marshall of their Halloween parade.
“The whole family came dressed up for Halloween, and Rocko’s mother was the proudest person pushing her son in a wheelchair,” Sirgiovanni said.
Most recently, he made Rocko a Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Center (KPTC) Fellow by donating $1,000 to North Shore LIJ’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center, where Rocko is currently a patient.
The designation comes with a medal, which Sirgiovanni presented to Rocko and his family at the meeting honoring Sirgiovanni’s contributions to Kiwanis.
“I told [Rocko’s parents] that they were my heroes,” Sirgiovanni said, “because the husband waited 45 years to have a child, and the doctor told him they should abort Rocko. He said, ‘No, we love him. We’re not going to just discard him because he’s not a well child.’”
Now Sirgiovanni and a number of local Kiwanis clubs are raising money to help pay for a new customized van for the Morabito family, which will accommodate Rocko and his wheelchair.
Sirgiovanni said that the Kiwanis community “is trying to do whatever we can to help them,” because he cannot think of a more deserving family.
“I was just touched by the parents and touched by their being positive, and being realistic, too,” he said. “They’re living every day like you don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring for this boy.”