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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Nov 15, 2020

Young Man with Endless Energy Refuses to Let Anything Stop Him

By Shanna O'Mara

Sal Rinaudo works at his family’s store, Ana’s Florist & Gifts.

Despite having two jobs, participating in multiple sports and taking life skills classes, one local man still makes time for his family and friends, spreading cheer among those who have supported him throughout his life. Meet Middletown’s Sal Rinaudo.

Sal was born in Staten Island, New York and grew up in Middletown where his family has lived for more than two decades. He was born with Down syndrome and “continued to thrive” despite his diagnosis, said his mother, Ana Rinauldo.

Sal attended Bayview Elementary School then Thorne Middle School. Throughout his childhood, Sal loved to stay active and was a social butterfly, though he is nonverbal. He enjoyed riding his bike, playing various sports and practicing yoga. He and his two sisters, Luisa and Angelica, have been “inseparable,” according to their mom.

“They’ve helped Sal his whole life by providing him with support in his educational, social and emotional needs,” Ana said.

He also has a circle of close friends, including Meghan Vadon, a lifelong pal who accompanied Sal at their Middletown High School South junior prom. That year, the two were named prom king and queen. The student body, just like the community, rallied around a man who could not speak to them with words but with kindness.

Sal Rinaudo and Meghan Vadon were named prom king and queen at their junior prom.

“We are surrounded by wonderful people in the neighborhood who associate themselves with Sal by either riding bikes together or simply just hanging out on the driveway,” Ana said.

Today, Sal is involved in baseball, basketball, soccer, karate, football, dance and yoga through RallyCap Sports, a sports foundation for people with special needs. Additionally, he participates on a bowling team every Sunday during the season. Through Family Resource Associates in Red Bank, Sal attends classes such as photography and computing. When he’s not busy with sports or classes, Sal also works two jobs. At his family’s shop in Middletown, Ana’s Florist & Gifts, Sal helps maintain the cleanliness of the store and assists his mom in making deliveries.

“He has grown in his abilities to help around the store and is always excited to work,” Ana said. “Sal has always loved working because he feels like he has a purpose. Sal sweeps the floor, cleans the buckets, and wipes down the refrigerator. He has grown to learn the different types of flowers throughout the years.”

In 2019, Sal also began working at No Limits Cafe in Red Bank. There, he cleans tables and serves customers. Though the restaurant temporarily shut down this past spring, Sal has since returned to work and recently learned to prepare food.

“What people need to know is that with some patience, love and guidance, people like Sal can lead wonderfully amazing lives. Inclusivity is extremely important to us, and we hope that more people understand the need for it in our society,” Ana said. “People should know that his diagnosis does not define him.”

Perhaps what defines Sal is his hardworking nature, his insatiable desire to learn, his unmatched loyalty and his contagious smile.

 

Three things to know about Sal Rinaudo:

  1. At just 3 months old, he underwent open heart surgery.
  2. He graduated from Middletown High School South in 2018 at age 21.
  3. Sal is excellent at reading people’s facial expressions. What he lacks in expressive language, he makes up for in receptive language.