VILLA PARK – Three years removed from Willowbrook High School, alumnus Mike Storino recently returned to the place where he was honored as the 2013 Warrior Award recipient. It's an award that was created last year and honors someone within the Willowbrook community who has shown great strength and determination.
When he was a toddler, Storino was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which is a genetic disorder that causes the progressive degeneration and weakening of muscles. Today, he gets around with the help of a Power Chair and has very limited mobility of his arms and legs.
"I just deal with it," he said in a video that was shown during the Willowbrook awards ceremony. "I'm pretty used to being in a wheelchair. I make the most of the situation."
The 21-year-old was a member of Willowbrook's 2010 graduating class. He still lives in Villa Park with his parents and is taking classes at Elmhurst College, where he's studying to be a special education teacher. He said he'd like to work in a high school with students who have behavioral special needs.
"I think it would just be cool to influence kids," he said. "I'd also like to coach a sports team."
When he was at Willowbrook, Storino was the manager of the girls basketball and softball teams, where he attended the games, took stats and helped out the coaches. He describes this as one of his favorite memories of high school.
Earlier this spring, he was contacted by Matt Clapper, a teacher at the school, and asked to be this year's Warrior Award recipient.
"He asked me if I wanted to do it," Storino said. "They filmed me going around the school and made a five-minute video that they showed during the award ceremony. They said it's supposed to inspire people."
Storino said the biggest challenge of living with muscular dystrophy is the obvious one: Getting around every day.
Anthony LoCoco, a 2002 alumnus and teachers aide at Willowbrook, worked one-on-one with Storino during his junior and senior years at school. LoCoco would go with him to classes and offer assistance throughout the day. During their time together, LoCoco said the two became good friends.
"Mike Storino never had a negative thing to say to anybody or about anything," LoCoco said. "He had an incredibly positive outlook on his life, despite the situation he was in."
Like most 21 year olds, Storino said he likes going out to bars on the weekends and has several favorite TV shows that he watches during his spare time. He's also passionate about music and his eyes light up when he talks about his favorite bands and concerts.
During the past several months, he's seen Coldplay, the Killers and Muse in concert. The Killers was the worst of the three, he said, because the positioning of the handicapped section at the venue made it difficult for him to see the stage. The other two were awesome, though.
There's no cure for muscular dystrophy, but Storino said he still works to stay optimistic.
"I just learn to take the good stuff out of life and learn to laugh," he said in the video.