Give For A Cure: Send Mike to Miami

Give For A Cure: Send Mike to Miami

From John Sullivan

We recognize the Miami Project To Cure Paralysis and The Buoniconti Fund as the preeminent research center for spinal cord and brain injuries and are asking for your help to enable Mike Vaz to walk again.

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Dear Ladies/Gentlemen of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis,

I am writing to introduce you to a very special person and friend of mine, whose life was forever changed on the night of Feb.8, 2013 when he was shot and critically injured in a domestic shooting in Springfield, MA. His name is Mike Vaz, a former two-sport standout at the High School of Commerce in Springfield. 

Mike was seriously injured in that early morning shooting.  He was and is basically paralyzed from the shoulders down after being shot twice in the arm and shoulder areas. He sits in an electric wheelchair that he cannot independently operate, and although he is able to raise his arms, he cannot move his fingers. 

I am quoting numerous sources that are attached to give you an in-depth look into what made Mike Vaz who he was.

Vaz was named The Springfield Republican's 2002-03 Male High School Athlete of the Year, after being the only person to win the region's individual player of the year awards in football and basketball.

In football, Vaz won both the 2002 Norman Dagenais and Angelo Bertelli awards, which recognized the most valuable and most outstanding football player in Western Massachusetts.Following his senior basketball season, Vaz was awarded the 2002-03 John "Honey" Lahovich Award as the area's top player.

As a 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-handed quarterback, Vaz helped Commerce win three Super Bowl titles in four years before he graduated in 2003."He was just a natural athlete, he did stuff you couldn't coach," Kosel said. "His athleticism was a special gift."

Vaz received football scholarship offers from the likes of the University of Massachusetts and Northeastern University. "And Syracuse wanted him to go to prep school, then wanted to offer him a scholarship after that," Kosel said.

As a senior, Vaz threw for 936 yards and 15 touchdowns while also rushing for 975 yards and 12 touchdowns. He played safety on defense and was named to the state's Super 26 All-State team.

In basketball, he averaged 18 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, three steals, and two blocks as a forward for the Red Raiders.When he finished his high school career, he was ranked fifth on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,274 points.

It seemed that Mike Vaz was on his way to a successful and promising future.

But on that early morning Feb.8, 2013, his career was cut short.  A man he did not know forced his way into the home of Vaz's girlfriend at the time. She and the man had been in a relationship, and he was the father of her twin boys. But it went sour and on Dec. 19, 2012, she obtained an abuse prevention order from the district court. She told the courts that a day earlier; he had broken into her home, kicked the refrigerator door off its hinges, and punched her. He was ordered to stay 100 feet away from her and the twins. The order expired on Jan. 3, 2013, and a little more than a month later, he broke into her apartment one last time.

Vaz said when he heard the front door flying open from the upstairs bedroom he knew something was wrong. He grabbed his girlfriend’s twin 1-year old boys and put them in a closet to keep them safe. By the time he went outside the room, the man was at the top of the stairs and the two of them fought. As they struggled, his girlfriend’s 5-year-old son came out of his room and stood in shock at the scene before him. Vaz shouted for him to go in the bathroom and lock the door. The intruder must have been on drugs or something. His eyes were black and empty and he was mumbling something the whole time. And he had incredible strength. “He had Superman strength. He wasn't feeling nothing,” Vaz said.

At one point, the man tumbled down the stairs. A handgun fell out of his pocket. He picked it up and began shooting up the stairs at Vaz. Vaz was struck in the arm. He chased after him, still shooting, and Vaz was forced to jump for his life out a second-story window. As he hit the ground, he was struck in the back by the man shooting from the upstairs window.

After shooting Vaz, Brown shot his ex-girlfriend to death. He then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. Mike selflessly saved 3 children that day.

Everything changed in a matter of moments. For now, Vaz is unable to feed & dress himself or get in or out of bed without help. It takes four people to carry him and his chair out the door when he goes outside, and he is dependent on continual care from the time he wakes until the time he goes to sleep.

Mike Vaz is a HERO in every sense of the word and after reading and learning about Mike Vaz, one cannot help but be struck by the similarities between him and Nick and Marc Buoniconti.  These men all were athletes, leaders, mentors, and champions. 

We recognize the Miami Project and The Buoniconti Fund as the preeminent research center for spinal cord and brain injuries. and are writing to ask for your help to enable Mike Vaz to walk again.  His legs that a decade ago powered him to be a dominating presence in football and basketball are not working either. He sometimes feels movement in them, but that is about it, he said. “I have no legs yet,” he said. As he said this, he emphasized the word “yet.”

Mike is a very special friend and a person who deserves a chance.  Please let us know what can be done to get his life back.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

John Sullivan

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