After scholarship from Hines Ward, Valley’s Guzzo to be featured in book

Sunday, February 16, 2020 | 4:45 PM

Greg Guzzo was checking his email randomly last year when he saw a message titled “Positive Athlete.”

He didn’t know what it meant at the time, but the email turned out to be a gateway to a scholarship and an opportunity to tell the story of how he handled a difficult time in his life.

Guzzo, a Valley graduate, was born with a congenital heart defect that was discovered when he was 13. Through surgery and rehab he persevered to become a college soccer player at Penn State New Kensington and will be featured in a book titled, “The Positive Athlete: 100 Inspirational Stories of High School Student Athletes.”

Guzzo is delighted to have an opportunity to share his story and be an outlet of inspiration for anyone going through a trying time.

“I want to show that you can come back from anything,” Guzzo said. “My story is basically what happened to me from age 13 all the way through high school. I want to inspire people with my story.”

The book details how scholastic athletes have dealt with difficult circumstances. It currently is not available for individual sale. Positive Athlete President and CEO Scott Pederson said he’s working with companies to purchase the books for school districts.

“It’s truly a book every kid in middle and high school should be required to read because it is so diverse in the subject matter,” Pederson said. “A younger reader will either find themselves in the book, gain a new perspective on what life is like for someone with a disability or disease, or they will read a volunteerism story and say, ‘Hey, I could do something like that in my community.’

“Instead of selling the book the traditional way, we are asking for companies in Western Pennsylvania to help us by purchasing boxes of books and allowing us to distribute them in the schools of their choice. It could be for a specific school, or they can trust us to get it in the hands of the schools that want it. Or school systems can purchase them directly from us for $10 plus shipping. At some point, we will put them on sale to the public for $17.95, but we are hoping businesses will help us out by purchasing them on behalf of the schools.”

Last year, unbeknownst to him, Guzzo’s mother, Katie, submitted a nomination on his behalf to Positive Athlete. He received an invite to the Positive Athlete ceremony at Heinz History Center last year, where he was awarded a scholarship.

“My mom usually handled everything, so I would fill out the forms for potential scholarships and she would send them in,” Guzzo said. “When I told her about the email I got, she was overwhelmed. I needed money for school, and when she found out she was in tears. That’s how I found out about Positive Athlete. From there I did some research on them, and here I am today.”

Retired Pittsburgh Steelers all-pro wide receiver Hines Ward started Positive Athlete as a foundation to provide scholarships for athletes who have overcome difficult circumstances, given back to their schools and communities or have an infectious positive attitude.

Ward wrote the forward to the book.

Guzzo is one of several Positive Athlete recipients from Western Pennsylvania featured in the book but is the only one from the Alle-Kiski Valley. He learned he had a congenital heart defect when he was in eighth grade and had surgery a few months later. He was a wrestler but wasn’t able to participate after the surgery. So, he turned to soccer and found his sports home.

“A couple of years after my surgery I joined the soccer team, and I always wore a chest protector with gel that formed to my chest,” Guzzo said. “I grew bigger and stronger and was eventually cleared to go back to wrestling, but I found a passion in soccer and stayed with it. Now I’m playing at Penn State New Kensington.”

Pederson said the way Guzzo handled his situation made him a perfect subject to be featured in the book.

“Greg’s story is a microcosm of this book is all about,” Pederson said. “He goes from a healthy middle school kid to dealing with having open-heart surgery at a young age. His world is rocked because he can no longer wrestle. But instead of being depressed, he sees an opportunity to become an advocate for congenital heart defects by raising money, speaking to legislators about CHD’s and being a voice for children who lost their battles.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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