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Amputee travels country to inspire disabled basketballers

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A Bensonhurst basketball player with one leg is going out on a limb to show that players with prostheses can ball with the best of ’em by playing on a team composed entirely of amputees.

Patrick “Patty” Filosa lost his left leg to a rare medical condition in 2013, but today he tours the country as part of Amp 1 — a team of amputee basketball players from across the country with the mission to inspire and educate — and he is taking that message to Brooklyn’s hardwood. Filosa struggled with the loss of his leg at first, but after years of hard work he is at ease on and off the court and went from a sports fan to an athlete fans flock to, a teammate said.

“I was there when Patty first had his amputation, and it’s amazing to see someone whose come so far,” said Jovan Booker, who lost his right leg below the knee when he was 10 months old and has played with Amp 1 for six years. “Being an amputee brings a lot of physical struggles, but it also brings mental struggles, and I think Patty having the ability to see me and others — who have had this all their lives and how comfortable we are — it’s really motivated him to be a better person. He’s very passionate about what we do and being a positive role model.”

The 28-year-old Filosa was born with a genetic disorder that made his left leg brittle, and after years of surgeries to correct the issue, the limb had to be amputated in 2013 when he was 25. The loss of a leg was a major blow to the sports fanatic, but he did some research and a few months after loosing his leg, Filosa attended an Amp 1 game at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. Seeing the players crush the competition inspired him to take his first steps toward joining the team, said Booker.

“He came up to us after the game and said, ‘I know I don’t even have a prosthetic yet — and I don’t care how much work it takes — but I’m going to be part of Amp 1,’ ” said Booker. “And ever since Patty joined he’s taken the helm of what we do here in the city.”

Filosa got his prosthesis — a polymer lower leg with the logo of his all-time-favorite sports franchise, The Mets — and joined the team last year. Since then he has visited more than 30 schools in five different states to show kids that losing a limb cannot block success or happiness.

One particularly memorable encounter with a child was during a visit to Nike’s headquarters in Oregon, where he met a Palestinian boy who lost his leg in a bombing there. The meeting left a lasting impression on Filosa who felt he was able to make an impact in the boy’s perspective.

“I just wanted to show him just because you’re different it’s okay — that’s okay,” said Filosa. “Kids can be cruel, and it’s amazing when you’re able to show them just because you have a disability that doesn’t stop you from what you want to do — whether it’s being a writer or a rock climber. You can do it.”

Until Filosa joined, Amp 1 had only two New Yorkers — Booker and teammate Robert Rodriguez. They did some outreach in New York City, but they’ve really ramped up their presence in the boroughs since Filosa joined, according to Rodriguez.

“Patrick is the Amp 1 ambassador,” said Rodriguez, who also lost his right leg from below the knee when he was 10 months old and has played with Amp 1 for four years. “He has such a great heart. We really wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing without Patrick.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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