Mark Chauppetta described the day he thought his twin boys wouldn’t be able to play sports again.
Troy and Andrew Chauppetta were staring out of the window of their home in Brockton, Massachusetts, watching their friends play outside. The boys were very active and competitive athletes when they were young, but never lost their competitive nature, even after their diagnosis at age 12.
"As a parent that just devastated me," Mark Chauppetta said.
The twins have a rare, fatal genetic muscular disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which affects 1 in 3,500 male births around the world. While most children are expected to die in their late teens or early twenties, the Chauppetta twins are now 24 and still fighting — in part through the new sport they've picked up: power soccer.
The twins found it when they were teenagers, shortly after they transitioned to being in wheelchairs full-time. But what started as a hobby soon turned into a lifestyle.
"Watching them play power soccer … takes me away from the reality of my life during those games. To me, they’re not disabled, they’re athletes," Mark Chauppetta said. "So, if I could get some joy and respite from the horribleness of this disease through power soccer, I’ll take them all over the world for it."
He's getting his chance. In October, the twins went to a three-day intensive selection camp in Minnesota. A few weeks later, they got the phone call informing them that they made the USA FIPFA World Cup Team. The twins were the only men selected from the New England area to qualify for the team.
"I was really excited and honored that I could play on the United States Power soccer team and represent the United States," Andrew Chauppetta said.
They're optimistic about life outside of power soccer, too.
"Some advice I would give to other kids who are struggling with this disability would be not to let the disability get in your way, just live a normal life, hang out with friends and just be happy," Troy Chauppetta said.
He and his brother have high-power wheel chairs that allow them to move around easily. They learned to drive on the roads using an adaptive van with a joy stick and they just signed a lease for their own apartment in Bridgewater on Friday.
It will be the first time the twins will move away from home, though they will still have full-time personal care assistants.
"If you have a child with a disability … it’s ability, not disability, get rid of the D-I-S," Mark Chauppetta said. "Anyone that has a disability has the ability to do anything, they just need a little extra assistance."
Viewers can learn more about the Chauppetta family journey to Team USA on the Wheelchair Strong Foundation website.