Rome. The prestigious Vatican-sponsored Premio Internazionale Giuseppe Sciacca, named after the architecture student Giuseppe Sciacca (1960-1986) who died young but lived long enough to be proposed as an exemplary role model to the new generations, saw the 11-year-old American Cody McCasland as the winner of the 2102 edition of the prize.
This ìnternational prize is the culmination of a charity event that annually awards persons who, in their lives or in their fields of activity, have distinguished themselves as a commendable role model in society. The award ceremony took place in the Pontifical Urbaniana University on Saturday evening, November 10th, 2012, and was presided over by its honorary chairman, His Eminence Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, supported by the prize president, Rev. Professor Bruno Lima, who is also president of the Institute of International Juridical Economic and Social Studies, ISGESI.
The young Cody McCasland is double, above-knee amputee. He was born with a rare birth defect that caused his legs to form missing both his tibias and knees. He has been receiving care at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children (TSRHC) since he was just two months old. After numerous consultations, it was decided that it was in Cody’s best interest to amputate his legs through the knee to give him a chance at mobility. This surgery was completed when Cody was just 15 months old, and he received his first set of prostheses when he was 17 months old. At the age of 10, Cody had undergone more than 20 surgeries, has gone through more than 20 sets of prosthetic legs, and traveled to 14 states for sports or as a Challenged Athletes Foundation Spokesperson.
Cody has been able to train, travel and compete in various athletic events around the USA to help him reach his goal of competing in the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He acts as an inspiration for others, so much so that the US Department of Defense, thanks to his exceptional human qualities, chose him to help bring comfort to military professionals that have come back from Afghanistan and Iraq with amputations. Cody has been allowed the opportunity to meet with several of these service members, spending time with them and showing off his “unlimbited” abilities. He feels very privileged to share their time and looks forward to continue with these meetings. Cody has also had the opportunity to speak at several corporate events and in schools, discussing overcoming obstacles and having a positive attitude.
His remarkable attitude was fully reflected in his thanksgiving speech upon receiving the prize from the hands of a visibly moved Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, when amid roaring applauses Cody proclaimed he was thankful to God for what he received from Him, considering it a “gift” rather than a “disability”. For his part the senior prelate praised Cody’s “patience, perseverance and steadfastness”, encouraging him to foster his embattled spirit with these eminent Christian virtues.
In the Culture section, a special prize was awarded to Cardinal Raffaele Farina. “Distinguished scholar and expert of Ancient Church History and Historical-Theological Methodology”, the award reads, “has held cultural offices of primary importance including the Secretary of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, Rector of the Pontifical Salesian University, Prefect of the Vatican Library and Archivist and Librarian of Holy Roman Church, intensively networking with academic and cultural institutions around the world”.
Cardinal Farina expressed thanks for the award, but made it clear that he intended the prize not only for him, but especially for those who teamed up with him in three years of hard work, in particular to refurbish the Vatican Library. “In this time of crisis”, he went on, “it is important for divisions not to become insurmountable barriers and a pretext for new wars. Culture creates bridges, bridges of communication, even of friendship, exchange of all that is positive in what the intellect and the human heart produce…Culture paves the way for dialogue between peoples, nations and religions. In it the youth discover the strength and courage to express what is positive and creative within themselves, the need to involve others, because the union is strength and produces hope, optimism and joy”.