As the Suffolk County Community College men’s soccer team tries to make another run at a national championship, there will be a familiar and inspiring youngster cheering them on.
Head coach Frank Vertullo’s son, Michael, 8, always makes sure to get in a dance party with the players when he’s at a game.
“Mikey” has autism. And even more than being a dedicated coach, Frank Vertullo is dedicated to helping his son and others. He started the Frank and Michael Vertullo Faith & Hope Foundation to benefit children and young adults with special needs.
“He’s gotten so much help along the way from such wonderful teachers that I started this in his name as well because he’s come so far and the more people we help, their lives will benefit,” Vertullo said.
Vertullo, who is an art teacher at Robert Frost Middle School in Deer Park, started the foundation in 2013 to assist high school students who were graduating from Deer Park High School’s special education program. This year, he’s expanded it to Suffolk, where the foundation awarded Emma Lemanski $2,500 for her last semester of tuition and school expenses. She has cerebral palsy and became the first student who uses a wheelchair to be admitted to the theater program. The foundation has given close to $20,000 in aid since it started.
“He talks about his son a lot and how it’s not easy doing what he does,” said Victor Montano, a second-year forward for SCCC. “And getting this foundation where it’s up to right now . . . he’s put a lot of work into it.”
There have been many occasions for Montano and Mikey to dance this season as Suffolk went 9-0-0 in Region XV for the first time in program history.
Vertullo led Suffolk to two NJCAA Division III national championships in 2010 and 2014. The team finished runner-up in 2013 and last year was beaten in the regional, but this season’s squad is ranked No. 4 in the country and looking to get back to the national tournament to bring home another title.
“We’re hoping to have a good run in the playoffs,” said Montano, who is second in Division III with 23 goals. “Hopefully win regionals. Once we’re in nationals, we’ll give it our best — coach knows what it takes to win a national championship.”
The Sharks defeated Bronx Community College 6-1 on Saturday, and face Rockland Community College in the regional semifinals Wednesday. They have home field throughout the regional tournament. Kevin Quintazaca and Nick Plate have 13 assists each and both will be looking to connect with Montano.
If the Sharks can advance to the national tournament, Mikey will be right in the thick of the celebrations, dancing away.