Paul Asaro is an inspiration for parishioners and his pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Scarsdale for overcoming challenges to achieve success.
Asaro, 43, won a gold and silver medal at last month’s 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Florida, an event that brought together over 5,500 athletes and coaches from the United States and the Caribbean.
The Eastchester resident took home gold in men’s open water swimming, posting a time of 36 minutes, 6.6 seconds over 1,000 meters on Lucky’s Lake. He claimed silver in the men’s triathlon consisting of a 440-yard swim, 10.8-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run in a time of 1 hour, 33 minutes, 35.4 seconds.
“It was my first time swimming 1,000 meters in one shot without taking a break,” Asaro told CNY.
As for the triathlon, he said, “I swam 300 yards more than I had to. Because of that, it’s a miracle I was able to catch up and finish in second place. I can ride a bike and run far without getting tired; I have very good endurance. I can’t do that yet in swimming.”
Asaro returned home and draped his medals around his neck to show fellow parishioners at church.
“He is an inspiration for us at IHM in the way he set his goals, worked to overcome any challenges before him, and ultimately achieve what he set out to accomplish,” said Msgr. Luke Sweeney, the pastor.
“Paul is a regular guy, down to earth, but an exceptional Catholic man in his dedication, persistence and availability to others,” he added. “Not only participating in the Special Olympics, but also bringing home gold and silver medals has been an awesome moment for us as a parish to congratulate Paul, encourage him and for him to allow us to become part of that amazing moment and history.”
Asaro has been involved with Special Olympics in the Hudson Valley as an athlete since 1994 and a coach since 2008. He was named New York State Male Athlete of the Year in 2005 and the Hudson Valley Male Athlete of the Year in 2017. He has represented the United States at the 2003 World Games in Dublin, Ireland, and the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Asaro currently sits in the athlete seat on the Special Olympics New York State Board of Directors and is the vice chairman for the Special Olympics New York State Athlete Leadership Counsel. He served as chairman of the Special Olympics New York State Athlete Leadership Counsel in 2020 and 2021.
Asaro’s success at the Special Olympics is only a part of his story.
He was born with duodenal atresia or a blockage between his duodenum and small intestine, and suffered complications in brain swelling and lack of oxygen to the brain.
Asaro did not let his disability discourage him as he was a part of the Eastchester Youth Soccer League and was a distance runner in the track program at Eastchester High School where he was nominated for the school’s Athlete of the Year in 1995.
He has served his community as a volunteer firefighter in the Town of Eastchester since 1997 and has been employed as a mailroom clerk and office assistant by Ellington Group Management in Old Greenwich, Conn., since 2006.
“Life does not need to stop here,” Asaro said. “We need to find a path to make things easier for us even though we have a disability. I don’t allow my disability to stop me.”
At Immaculate Heart of Mary, Asaro serves his parish as an adult altar server, usher, third degree member of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the parish council.
“Right off the bat when I began at IHM in the late fall of 2020, Paul came across as a man of generous service, dedication to the Church and parish, and a man who wants to be involved,” said Msgr. Sweeney. “Rarely is there a Sunday Mass without his presence. He is rooted in the faith of Jesus Christ and as a married man to his wife, Melissa, and from this interior identity flows his active service in the parish.”
In 2012, Asaro married Melissa Gelso and purchased a co-op in Eastchester.
“There is always a path that makes us happy,” Asaro said.