PHOTO | A show of support for Thorold golf Mike Di Raddo

Mikey Rocco DiRaddo checks out the custom clubs presented to him by his main sponsor, Robert Megna from Bayshore Groups. - Melinda Cheevers/Staff Photo ST. CATHARINES — A Thorold golfer vying for a spot at the Special Olympics received a special send off from family, friends and his sponsor before heading to his first provincial qualifier Monday. Michael "Mikey" DiRaddo took to the greens at Granite Ridge Golf Course in Milton on Monday, shooting a 65 — five strokes under the cutoff to qualify for the next round of consideration. He’ll still need to complete three qualifying rounds at Legends on the Niagara’s executive course by September in order to make the cut for the provincial competition in Brampton next year. Ten years ago, competing in the Special Olympics wasn’t even in the realm of possibility for DiRaddo. At that time, he was just focusing on getting to the point where he could walk. Born with a brittle bone disease, one his mom, Linda, likened to osteogenesis imperfecta, he spent his first 11 years in an electric wheelchair before moving on to using a walker. “He had between 60 and 70 fractures in his first year of life,” she said. Following five years of treatment in Montreal with the Shriners’ Hospital, he was able to walk unassisted for the first time at the age of 17. DiRaddo found golf through his father, Mark, who often played. Over time, though, DiRaddo found his own love for the sport. “I like the way the game is played,” he said on Thursday, during a special send off party held for DiRaddo at Lounge Six - Parkway Sky Bar on the sixth floor at the Holiday Inn Parkway Conference Centre. His sole sponsor, BayShore Groups hosted the event for DiRaddo, his family and friends. BayShore president Robert Megna said he was inspired to sponsor the 25-year-old golfer after meeting him about six months ago. “Instantly we clicked,” he said. “Within 30 seconds, this young man changed my life. He put in perspective what we do and what we take for granted on a daily basis.” Megna said he signed BayShore on to be DiRaddo’s exclusive sponsor so the golfer can focus on training and his golf game, not chasing sponsors and trying to find money. “Now he can focus on what’s important,” he said. On Thursday, DiRaddo was presented with customized golf clubs created by Niagara Golf Warehouse, as well as BayShore Groups-emblazoned golf shirts, bag, and more. In addition to spending time on the golf course, DiRaddo has been spending a lot of time at BayShore Groups’ corporate headquarters in St. Catharines. “Mikey comes to our office two to three times a week and acts as a special ambassador to BayShore Groups,” said Megna. “He’s an inspiration to my entire team.” Local community sports booster and former junior hockey coach Rob Hubbert has been involved with helping DiRaddo on his road to the Special Olympics. It was him who first connected the golfer with Megna. Speaking on Thursday, he said DiRaddo has been an inspiration to him. “He’s changed my life and when you meet him, he’ll change yours,” said Hubbert. Thursday’s party, which not only included DiRaddo’s friends and family, but also representatives from the Niagara IceDogs, Niagara River Lions and other community organizations, was a way for the community to show support for DiRaddo. “Thank you for all of your support,” he said, adding he’s grateful to see it come from all over the Niagara region.
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