KNOWN IN REAL LIFE AS:
Meet The Lineman at the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon & Team Relay
on September 29.
View a course map.
Meet The Lineman
Joe Gavriloff, Age 16, from Kent, Ohio
Why Joe is an #ACHero: Joe was diagnosed with severe hearing loss when he was 5 years old. He’s never looked at his impairment as a setback, rather as something that makes him stronger. While his hearing does pose some everyday obstacles, he doesn’t let it stop him from doing the things he enjoys like playing sports, achieving high academic marks and serving as a role model for younger kids with a hearing disability.
Side kicks: His twin sister, Elizabeth, his brother, Chris, who also plays football, and his football and lacrosse teammates.
When he’s not busy overcoming obstacles: Joe stays busy training and practicing as a lineman for the Kent Roosevelt High School football team. He also enjoys watching “The Flash” on television, reading comic books and hanging out with friends.
Did you know fact: Joe sings in his high school’s choir.
Joe’s story: At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and a size 17 shoe, Joe Gavriloff has a commanding presence when he steps on the football field. Thanks to his natural ability and strength, he’s able to execute plays, make tackles and tune out the competition. Joe doesn’t listen to the competition because he can’t hear them.
At birth, Joe, who’s a twin, weighed in at just 5 pounds, 8 ounces. His early childhood was typical, growing and achieving developmental milestones right on time. As Joe approached his 5th birthday, his parents noticed his hearing was declining.
His parents made an appointment to see an ear, nose and throat specialist at Akron Children’s. After his first hearing assessment, Dr. Anton Milo noticed Joe had lost some hearing. He scheduled him for a CAT scan to get a more detailed image of the bony structures within the inner ear. At a 4-week follow-up appointment, Dr. Milo diagnosed Joe with severe hearing loss and recommended he get fitted for hearing aids.
“We were really astounded and worried at the time that the hearing loss was due to something really serious, like a brain tumor,” said Carrie Gavriloff, Joe’s mom. “When we learned it was congenital hearing loss it made us realize the miracle that he could hear at all the first 5 years of his life.”
To help amplify sounds, Joe was fitted with hearing aids in both ears just before he started kindergarten.
“I’ll never forget Joe telling me, ‘Thanks, mom, I can hear again!’ and then he jumped out of his chair and got right onto playing with his sister,” said Carrie. “It really put Joe’s life in perspective for me. This is just part of who he is; it doesn’t slow him down.”
Joe started kindergarten with bright, new hearing aids, made new friends and began playing sports – soccer, baseball, basketball and football.
“We saw his hearing aids much like wearing glasses, contacts or braces,” said Carrie. “It was different, but they were just part of the game for him.”
Thanks to Joe’s stature and work ethic, he excelled at playing offense and defense in youth football then middle school and now high school.
Joe can’t wear his hearing aids when he plays football because of painful pressure from his helmet and the risk of breaking the devices or producing feedback in his ear.
“I was worried when Joe wanted to play high school ball because it would be louder,” said Carrie. “Dr. Milo gave him advice on how to be his own advocate and encouraged him to speak up if he couldn’t hear. Thankfully, Joe played with a lot of the same boys he’d been playing with since middle school and they all look out for each other.”
Joe’s coaches also devise plans to support Joe. The quarterback looks at Joe to tell him the plays so he can read his lips and the linemen tap out signals on Joe’s back before a play.
Today, Joe has 70% loss in his right ear and 65% loss in his left ear, which hasn’t stopped the college recruiters from noticing his abilities on and off the field.
“Joe has never been afraid of working hard. He knows that hard work leads to great things,” said Carrie. “Thanks to his high grades and skills on the field, he has several college teams showing interest in him.”
Beyond football, Joe also has a commanding presence as a role model.
“Joe has always been happy to share his story with other kids facing hardships or disabilities…He takes his job as a role model very seriously, too,” said Carrie.