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Monday, Nov. 19, 2018
Frometa works his magic on and off the field of play
by Randy Pascal

Emilio Frometa was already assured of graduating from Queen's University with some very special memories thanks to his five year football career at the historic post-secondary institution in Kingston.

After breaking his leg in the very first quarter of the very first game of the 2015 season, the St Benedict Catholic Secondary School graduate endured something of a life-changing epiphany. “It was really challenging to see everything you worked so hard for disappear in the blink of an eye,” noted the 25 year-old offensive lineman earlier this month.

“But being able to come back from that and play the following year, and then the year after, getting into my Masters degree and being named offensive captain of the team, it was something that was very humbling. To see all of that work and effort and dedication also being recognized by others on the team was special.”

Yet, as he prepares for spring convocation, these on-field accomplishments would pale in comparison to the ground-breaking pathway he would forge within the community of his home away from home. “The year that I broke my leg, I had made a commitment to helping out a young man (Michael) with autism,” Frometa recollected.

“I had worked summer camps and had done a good job with some of the kids with exceptionalities, and I figured I could probably help someone on a one on one basis. I decided to help out with an initiative that had been going on in the city.”

For many, this commitment alone would have been reason to look back, with boundless pride, on the difference a student-athlete could make. Frometa, to his credit, saw more. “I not only saw the impact that this had on his life, and mine as well. I saw an opportunity with student athletes, who are a fantastic group of role models, to maybe establish something that could capitalize on that huge resource, connecting the community with these fantastic mentors.”

“It taught me so many things working with him, that I realized this was 100% something that was replicable,” Frometa continued. “There are so many varsity athletes that are outstanding citizens, who also have great time management skills and are great communicators. On top of that, they are finely tuned athletes with great motor skills.”

“A lot of these youth with ASD diagnosis don't necessarily get the chance to develop their motor skills. This program gives them and their families a resource in the community to help them develop the motor skills, and also their social skills, makes them a part of a bigger family through the athletics department at the university.”

The end product that eventually blossomed into the Autism Mentorship Program (www.autismmentorship.com) started slowly enough. A ten volunteer summer program would give way to a full blown initiative that covered the 2017-2018 season. For his efforts, Frometa was awarded the Agnes Benedickson Tricolour Award, as well as the Brian Yealland Community Leadership Award.

The affable Sudburian had no trouble finding a connection between his two passions. “The coolest thing with football is that it teaches you so many life lessons,” he said. “For me, this goes back to learning from coach (Frank) Rocca at St Ben's. With football, you learn to interact with a team and also how to use the best strengths of individuals to lift other people up.”

“It's a bit of a metaphor on how our communities should behave.”

In time, Frometa has found rewards not only through his one on one sessions with Michael, but also through the feedback he has received from his fellow Gaels. “I think they (the athletes) learn a lot of things that can be paralleled in sports: patience, empathy, understanding,” he said. “It's just knowing that they do come from a point of privilege and that they are very fortunate to be able to play a sport that they love and get a degree at a post-secondary institution that has such a great reputation across the country.”

On a more personal level, the takeways are deeply entrenched for the remainder of his life. “You play the game not only because it's fun, but also very satisfying,” said Frometa. “You work towards a goal and get to accomplish something that is meaningful. This is a powerful initiative that many people can get behind. It's very rewarding.”

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