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Best friends powered through big challenges

My twin cousins, Jo Joe and Danny Ferencsik, met an amazing group of kids. Jo Joe and Danny were born with spinal muscular atrophy, a disease where your muscles get weaker and weaker until there are no more left. My cousins could not walk, but these kids saw right past that.

I want to talk about Jo Joe and his best friend, Maddie Hoffer. They all met in kindergarten. She loved Jo Joe like family and took care of him; they were inseparable. One amazing thing she did was become his hands and legs to help him all the time. Maddie and Jo Joe would look after each other in school and make sure they could be the best they could be. He passed that lesson on to me, his little cousin, and his twin brother, Danny. Jo Joe and Maddie did many things together, like camping, playing sports and going to each other's houses.

One day when Jo Joe was over Maddie's house, her dad took them out on his boat. They let Jo Joe drive the boat, and it was a very special thing. Maddie's family put up a handicap ramp into their house so Jo Joe and Danny would be able to go over there to play.

When they went camping Maddie would make sure that Jo Joe was OK and didn't need anything before she went to bed. They would sit together at bonfires and would joke around. They did target practice and played paintball games. Maddie would help him first before she played the game herself. They would build all these crazy contraptions and make gifts for each other.

Jo Joe and Maddie would have sleepovers and look at the stars. Every morning they would either go for a walk (he would be in his power chair), skateboard or bike. Jo Joe always made sure that Maddie was never being bullied, and if she was, he would stick up for her and make her feel better. Maddie would do the same for Jo Joe. They were always smiling when they were together and that was all the time. They were, as the families like to call them, the "power couple." As kids, they always said that they would grow up and get married, and the parents thought that was so funny, but Maddie and Jo Joe were very serious.

The theme of "love your neighbor as yourself" fits so well in this story because Maddie and Jo Joe treated each other how they would want to be treated and taught all of us around them what true love and friendship are.

Unfortunately, Jo Joe passed away on Aug. 18, 2011, but his determination and legacy live on, and that is love your neighbor as yourself. Danny is going into his senior year at Sachem High School and is one of the top students in his class. If you ask Maddie about her childhood she would say that it was the best, all because of her best friend, Jo Joe.


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