In the summer of 2000, Joe Testaverde was a normal healthy teenager growing up in a middle class town of
Wantagh, Long Island. At 17, he was approaching his senior year in high school and was spending the summer
doing what he loved best – fishing and surfing. As the Fourth of July weekend approached, thoughts of school
and career goals seemed a long way off.
That weekend Joe’s life would take a major change. While attending a party at a friend’s home on the evening of
July 4, 2000, Joe dove into a swimming pool and broke his neck, fracturing 2 vertebrae and injuring his spinal
cord. Were it not for the quick thinking of two friends who jumped in the water after him, he would not be alive
today. Still, Joe was left paralyzed in his legs and hands.
Following the accident, Joe was fortunate to have been brought to Nassau County Medical Center where Dr.
Vincent Leoni, the renowned doctor who treated Chinese gymnast Sang Lan, performed the necessary surgery to
stabilize his neck. Joe was then transferred to Kessler Institute in New Jersy where he underwent extensive
treatment and rehabilitation for many weeks.
Joe has slowly fought back. With great effort, he has regained some use of his hands, graduated high school
and learned to drive. While he lives with the many side effects of SCI, in addition to the obvious ones, he makes
improvements in his life daily, trying to regain as much independence as he can.
During Joe’s rehab, his family and friends organized a major fund raiser for a trust fund which was established for
Joey’s needs. The event drew over 700 people from all over Long Island, including a number of celebrities and
dignitaries. One of those was Kent Waldrep, founder of the Kent Waldrep National Paralyis Foundation, who
provided the keynote address. After meeting Kent and being inspired by his energy and enthusiasm, Joe’s
parents – Kathy and Anthony Testaverde, along with his dad’s cousin – Ron Quartararo, and other friends and
family members started the Joe Testaverde Chapter of the National Paralysis Foundation in the summer of 2001
to raise money for research into a cure for spinal cord injury. In 2003, they renamed the organization the
Testaverde Fund for SCI Inc in 2003, applying for and receiving their own 501C3 tax exempt status.
Joe continues to battle both the emotional and physical handicaps. He has learned that with perserverance and
hope, he can and will enjoy life to the fullest, while waiting for science and God to provide a cure. In August 2004,
Joe flew to California to participate in a surf club for SCI surfing enthusiasts. While that sport would be daunting
for those who are not paralyzed, it was great fun for Joe, who spent the entire day in the Pacific, riding the waves!!
Joe is now Assistant Director to the newly formed Long Island Spinal Cord Resource Center (LISCIRC), a project
of the Testaverde Fund. Joe will be focused on addressing high school students in health classes throughout
Long Island to talk about SCI prevention and the search for a cure!