EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the debut of a periodic series that will feaure the community advocacy work of teenagers with Tourette Syndrome.
Tommy Licato has actively advocated for those with Tourette Syndrome on behalf of the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS). The hard work of the 14-year-old South Plainfield native hasn’t gone unnoticed. His friend, 18-year-old Cory Singer, also of South Plainfield, is the national spokesperson for Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism for the Wish Upon A Hero Foundation.
When the opportunity arose for Singer to sing the National Anthem on his birthday at a Somerset Patriots game, he wanted to include his friend. So he asked the Wish Upon A Hero Foundation to grant his request – allowing Licato to be present AND gift Licato one of his biggest desires: tickets to a Broadway show. On September 11, both of their wishes were granted.
According to the Wish Upon A Hero Foundation, the wishes were granted because both Licato and Singer have Tourette Syndrome, have strongly advocated for themselves and for the organizations which they represent, and, simply, because it would be special for both of them.
“The Wish Upon A Hero Foundation was proud to acknowledge the work of 14-year-old Tommy Licato on behalf of the advocacy work he does to promote awareness and education about Tourette Syndrome,” said Wish Upon A Hero’s Director of National Events, Jill Pavel, who added that Singer will mentor Licato through a program the foundation has set up to promote philanthropic endeavors in the public school system through their own communities.
One of the best parts about the night was that Licato had no idea he would be honored until he was escorted onto the field shortly before first pitch. When he saw Singer standing near the pitcher’s mound with a big smile on his face, Licato wasn’t sure how to react.
“This shocking experience was one that few people get to enjoy, and it shows that making a difference may not always have this reward, but certainly has a positive outcome just by doing it,” said Licato, who has done Patient-Centered Medical Education trainings for NJCTS at Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown and JFK Medical Center in Edison.
Licato’s mother, Karen, witnessed the entire event and was elated for her son.
“There are no words to describe how proud I am of Tommy. He has come full circle,” she said. “When he was diagnosed, he wasn’t sure he wanted anyone to know about his Tourette. Then he decided there had to be a reason, so he starting speaking out against bullying, educating about Tourette and trying to make a difference in how people view disorders. To have him honored was just the icing on the cake for me.”
Licato’s special night received a hero’s welcome in the press. The Courier News offered this compelling story about the event, while the Courier Post’s website featured this colorful photo gallery. And in case you weren’t able to attend, be sure to check out Cory Singer’s rendition of the National Anthem. More information about the Wish Upon A Hero Foundation is available by visiting www.wishuponahero.com, and more information about NJCTS is available by visiting www.njcts.org.