Perseverance comes in all shapes and sizes. Even at age 5, Jack Cotroneo is a clear example of not letting your circumstances bring you down.
If you see little Jack playing basketball or running through the turf gym at the Schottland Family YMCA, you may notice his “superpower.” Born with limb difference, Jack noticeably roams our branches with only the top half of his left arm. His family affectionately calls it his “lucky fin.”
Rather than looking at it as something to hide from, Jack’s family wants him to feel as normal as any other five-year-old.
“I think for Jack it’s just building that self-esteem and confidence so that he keeps developing into this confident, happy, secure, human being,” said Jack’s grandmother, Jan Palumbo, who also worked at the Northwest Family YMCA for more than 30 years.
Jack’s fin is so lucky, even an NFL superstar took notice. When Jack and his family visited St. John Fisher University last summer to watch Buffalo Bills training camp, Tre’Davious White saw Jack’s arm as he was signing autographs for a group of kids. He said, “I’m rubbing this for good luck,” which caused Jack to draw the ire of his peers.
Jack said he enjoys the turf gym, playing basketball, hanging out in child watch, and seeing his friends the most at the YMCA. It has been a great respite for him and his family, especially amid tremendous personal tragedy. In July of 2022, his father Chris sadly passed away.
But Tony Palumbo, Jack’s grandfather, has seen just how resilient his grandson can be in the face of adversity. To Tony, a major part of Jack handling it all so well has been him being a member of our YMCA community.
“Jack has a great time at the Y," said Tony. "I think part of it is because he’s made a lot of friends here. And because this is his second year here and he was in preschool last year. And there’s a lot of opportunities for him to do things. I think that’s important, the variety.”
Jack may be youthful, but he still has many memories of his dad. He still thinks of him and makes sure to keep his memory alive.
“In my heart,” said Jack, when asked where his dad is today.
We’ll always be rooting for you, Jack. No matter where your lucky fin takes you in life.