From near death to high school graduate

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But those tears of joy had been tears of sadness just a few months earlier. Casillo recalls her own mother crying, worried over Infantino’s fragile health. “I don’t recall any of us really knowing the extent of his illness,” she said. “We just knew he was very sick and might not come back. I missed him because he was a good friend and someone who defended me more than once from the sixth-grade bullies.”

Moving forward

By seventh grade, Infantino was back to playing football, both with his school’s team and with the Green Hornets youth league. He was on the varsity team for three years at South and was one of four captains his senior year. Infantino played offense, defense and special teams.

He wrestled in junior high, played junior varsity baseball and basketball, and was on the varsity baseball squad this past spring. Academically, Infantino finished with a 97 grade point average, was president of the National Honor Society and took 13 Advanced Placement courses, including three on his own. “I did that for myself,” he said, “just to learn new things.”

He has also worked as a counselor for the village’s summer camp program at Barrett Park. In the fall, Infantino will head to Stony Brook University where he will be a pre-medicine major and play football. He said he chose Stony Brook because of its prestigious medical programs.

His goal is to become a neurosurgeon. The care he received six and a half years ago, and his father’s successful battle with esophageal cancer, has motivated him. “That definitely played a huge role in what I want to study,” he said, “knowing that you can play such a vital role in somebody’s life.”

Infantino said the ordeal definitely gave him a different perspective on life, becoming more focused. He came to really appreciate his family, who made long drives to see him during his recovery, bringing him homemade or Chinese food. He also learned that he shouldn’t take anything for granted, and to give 100 percent effort. “It was definitely a humbling experience,” he said. “Any one day, it could be your last day.”

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