Steven Januzelli is a devoted Philadelphia fan, and a member of the Union’s illustrious band of supporters, the Sons of Ben.
But Januzelli will tell you he’s even more enthusiastic about educating people about autism.
Having a brother with autism, Januzelli has supported awareness since he was child. He has personally taken time to volunteer at special needs schools and participated in various autism awareness walks.
Januzelli and his brother both enjoy the game of soccer and use it as a way to bond and spend time with one another.
“My brother and I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching the games together and it is a way for us to spend some time together which can be very rare because he is on such a strict schedule at the school he attends,” Januzelli said.
On April 13, in addition to a game against Toronto FC, that Saturday was also Autism Awareness Day at PPL Park. In support of the cause, both teams wore shoelaces emblazoned with puzzle designs during the game.
Prior to the game, the first 5,000 fans were presented with rally towels, courtesy of Farmers Insurance, with the phrase: “What Do You Stand For”. Farmers was also active during halftime when local agent Sue Klinger along with acting director David Hickey presented a check to the Autism Society of Greater Philadelphia, which was accepted by the foundation’s president, Patti Erikson.
Also, the day featured Tom Bak as the honorary captain. Tom, who suffers from autism, is from Wallingford and plays soccer for Rose Tree Soccer Club. He also attends the Vanguard School.
The Major Molly’s Army and Junior Supporters Club were also active during game day, managing a table on Toyota Plaza in which fans could color their own puzzle piece to show their support. Even fans that couldn’t make it out were given the chance to share their own puzzle pieces and stories as well.
The end result featured hundreds of colored pieces that were sent in from schools and supporters across the area. Following the game, the Mollies assembled the puzzle for Union players and technical staff to sign and give to a local Autism Support Group.
It was a gesture from the Union that brought a lot of pride to Januzelli, who wears a special tattoo on his wrist that features puzzle pieces and with his brother’s initials.
“I decided to get a tattoo around my wrist that symbolizes the Autism Awareness ribbon,” Januzelli said. It not only represents who my brother is, but it also helps me not to judge other people. It reminds me every day how I felt when strangers would look and stare at my brother and how I felt. It also gives me a sense of pride, my brother has done a lot for me in my life and in return it is, in my eyes, a nice gesture towards him and the impact he’s made on my life.”
According to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), autism spectrum disorder has been identified as a condition that affects one in 88 children in the United States. Autism awareness is a cause that affects a growing number of people both in the United States and around the world.
And for as long as it does, the Philadelphia Union will fully support Autism Awareness and encourages their fans to contribute to the cause and to educate others on the subject – just as Steven Januzelli does every chance he gets.
Contact Union writer Howard Hutchinson at firstname.lastname@example.org