“Thank you, Zach, for choosing us." A story of the loving Galasso family and a wonderful four-year-old, who has stolen the heart of his parents, sister and the Wayne Hills football team.

WAYNE, NJ - One look at Zach Galasso, with his precocious personality and delightful smile makes everyone around him feel a little better. And for Zach’s parents, and older sister, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Zach is a 4-year-old resident of Wayne, who had the chance to share a special night with his favorite high school football team: the Wayne Hills Patriots. For the game, he was named an honorary captain.

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The youngest of two children born to Sharon and Marc Galasso, Zach has Down Syndrome. But that’s completely irrelevant to those closest to him, as well as the Patriots, who enjoyed their time with Zach during last Friday’s home game, against West Milford, which Hills won, 37-0.

“I can’t even begin to say how grateful my family and I are for the way they took Zach into their family,” said Marc Galasso. “Coach [Wayne] Demikoff and his staff, the players, everyone really made him feel incredible. Talk about a class act! The entire program is top-notch.”

“We’re originally from Bogota (NJ) and didn’t move to Wayne until about six years ago,” continued Zach’s father. “We knew how good the program was on the field, but we learned so much more about a big heart and wonderful kids in that program. What an awesome night.”

Zach was one of five team captains, joining Nick Lucarello, Gabe Kuhn, Jack Woodard and Christian Puntolillo, on the field for the coin toss, prior to Wayne Hills’ game against West Milford. Zach knows Lucarello, and felt comfortable hanging out with Nick during the coin toss.

“Nick is a family friend,” said Marc. “And Zach has gotten to know him, so I could tell he would be good going out to the field with him. Zach mixed in well with all the players.”

The Galasso family had the chance to connect with the Patriots after an e-mail from Marc, discussing a fundraiser for the third annual ‘Zach’s Walk’, with the proceeds benefiting research for Down Syndrome.

“I had sent the e-mail out to different groups in town, and I got a wonderful response from Dawn Dellechiaie, who said she had spoken with Coach Demikoff and they’d be happy to have Zach come to a game and to help with raising some monies.”  Dawn’s son, Peter and nephew, Gabe, were both standout players for the Patriots, and were both key parts of state championship teams.

The Wayne Hills football Booster Club donated its half of the weekly 50-50 to Zach’s Walk. The team name for the annual walk is ‘The Zach Attack’.

Zach was born on June 12, 2015. His sister, Jillian, is a senior at Hills and a standout softball player for the Patriots. Last year, she played catcher for the team and did well, despite still learning the position.

“There’s an age gap between the two of them,” said Marc with a laugh. “But the two of them are so close. I’m not sure how it will be when Jillian goes away to college next fall. It will be different for Zach, and all of us, when she’s not here every day. They have a great bond together.”

“But that’s still a little way off.”

Zach is in pre-school, at Ryerson Elementary School, where he’s adapting well to his classmates and friends. It’s a full-day program.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society’s webpage, Down Syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. In every cell in the human body, there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm – although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.

The extra 21st chromosome is now a part of a new venture, Cafe 21, which trains youngsters and adults with Down Syndrome to work in a busy and competitive environment.

‘The Zach Attack’, Buddy Walk, held at the Wyckoff YMCA on Oct. 5, raised $2,669.00 so far, toward Down’s research, in 2019.

“The proceeds from the Wayne Hills 50-50 really helped,” said Marc, who has also taken over the booster club responsibilities for the Hills softball program.

Anyone interested in donating can click on the link to Zach’s page here. https://www.classy.org/team/246814

“Zach’s health is excellent,” said Marc. “He’s a happy four-year-old child, who is adapting well. He has some physical therapy, but he’s very active, runs around like crazy and has the typical energy of a youngster. Some Down’s children may have some health issues, but Zach doesn’t.”

Zach also enjoys cheering on his sister Jillian’s high school softball team.

“Win or lose, he’s there for every home game,” said Marc. “And when the game is over, he’s supporting the players. Doesn’t matter what the score is to him. The kids really enjoy being around Zach.”

When Sharon and Marc had learned their son would be born with Down Syndrome, there was just one thought: “We always say thank you to Zach, for choosing us to be his parents and family,” said Marc. “That’s the way we’ve always looked at it. “

And, as for the Hills football team?

“That program just draws you in,” said Marc. “I’ve seen it up close now, and there’s a reason why they’re so successful as a team. It comes from within, with great kids, obviously, tremendous parents and a wonderful coaching staff.”

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Mike Lamberti is a freelance reporter and blogger who covers multiple sports in multiple towns. Visit his blog when you can: https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/ 

You can also find him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mike.lamberti.9 

Twitter @Cagey86