Paralyzed student walks alongside coach

February 16, 2011 9:32:15 PM PST
For 16-year-old Lenny Martelli of Plymouth Meeting, walking onto the basketball court fulfilled a promise made months ago by a total stranger, a stranger that happens to be the head coach of Saint Joseph University's basketball team.

"I said, 'you know what, when you walk, you're going to walk out on the court with me,'" St. Joseph's Head Coach Phil Martelli said.

The steps Lenny took Wednesday night were not taken for granted rather they're a sign of triumph. The fateful steps took place exactly one year and one day after a snowboarding accident left the teen paralyzed from the chest down.

"They told me you're never going to walk again, I said I'm only 15, that's not possible," Lenny said.

While Lenny shares a last name with Saint Joe's coach Phil Martelli, there's no relation. It's a question asked of the Martelli's often.

"One day when we were in therapy, someone asked Lenny if he was related to Phil Martelli and he said, 'no, but it would probably be pretty cool if I met him,'" Lenny's mother Leti said.

So mom made a phone call and what happened next she never expected.

"She wanted a note, an autograph and I said give me the room number, give me the address," Coach Martelli said.

From there, Coach Martelli did what he does best. He coached and motivated the former varsity football player, propelling him beyond medical expectation.

As Lenny gained strength and speed beyond what doctors ever anticipated, Coach Martelli thought it was about time to make good on a promise made months ago and set up a date.

With his family in the audience and a full house to cheer him on, Lenny stepped onto the court to rousing applause.

"I'm just happy I could keep my promise to Coach and come here tonight with him" Lenny said.

"It was really something," the coach said.

That it was.


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