Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JOHN TRIFILETTI: WILLING AND ABLE AWARD; Sudan's Lost Boys Have an Advocate HandsOn Jacksonville Honors a Volunteer Who Has Risen above His Own Disabilities

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JOHN TRIFILETTI: WILLING AND ABLE AWARD; Sudan's Lost Boys Have an Advocate HandsOn Jacksonville Honors a Volunteer Who Has Risen above His Own Disabilities

Article excerpt

Byline: AMANDA TEW, BECA GRIMM and FREDERICK J. PECOR II

John Trifiletti began volunteering as a Boy Scout and hasn't stopped since.

One of his latest volunteer efforts was helping one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Trifiletti and his wife agreed to help their friend "adopt" the Sudanese young man by tutoring him and helping him secure $6,000 in scholarships so he, too, could attend college.

For a young man named Peter Ter (formally Peter Kok), Trifiletti provided a plethora of knowledge and opportunities. For Trifiletti, it is just the latest in years of busy volunteerism made all the more remarkable by the fact that Trifiletti is disabled, paralyzed in an airplane accident many years ago.

But, in fact, Trifiletti attributes his humanitarian awakening to his disability.

"It took a plane crash and becoming wheelchair-bound to fully realize the problems of persons with disabilities," he said. Since the accident, he has become involved in numerous nonprofit organizations.

For that dedication, Hands-On Jacksonville is presenting Trifiletti its "Willing and Able, Heart of Gold" Award for 2009.

Trifiletti works with organizations around North Florida such as the Independent Living Resource Center, the Disaster Preparedness Newsletter, the Disaster Plan for Disabled Individuals and the Jacksonville Sister Cities Association, and creates Web sites for various organizations as well. But there are a few causes that weigh more heavily.

"I am passionate about all of the organizations I volunteer for, but I get the most personal satisfaction from helping Lost Boys, veterans and persons with disabilities," Trifiletti said.

His family made the trek from Italy to the United States in 1901. As a second-generation Italian-American, he feels he can relate to the Sudanese-American boys who benefit from the organization.

"I know what it's like to try to learn to live in an entirely new culture," he said. …

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