For 18 months, he has been guiding his visually impaired friend Domenic Romeo (18) through training workouts and inspiring him to never give up on his dream.
Domenic was a promising basketballer who had just returned home from a basketball trip to the United States when he was diagnosed with the rare disease Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), which caused him to lose his central vision.
Determined to help Domenic stay upbeat and retain his fitness despite his deteriorating eyesight, Thomas would train with Dominic five times a week, either rising at 5.30am or racing home for after-school sessions.
‘Training with him helps me as well and keeps me fit,’ Thomas said. ‘Ever since Dom’s eyesight got worse, it’s been hard for me see him not do well.’
‘I’ve known him for so long and know sport has always been his passion, so I want to do what I can to help him continue his passion.’
‘He is my inspiration. He taught me how to play basketball and now I want to keep him continuing to play sport.’
Last Tuesday, about 120 children and their parents and supporters attended the HBF Junior Sports Heroes awards, to recognise community heroes in four categories ” inspirational boys, inspirational girls, inspirational team and inspirational volunteer.
Thomas received the inspirational volunteer award and there was barely a dry eye in the room after his speech.
After receiving the $1,000 cash prize, he turned to his mother and said, ‘You know I would give it all up for Dom to get his eyesight back, don’t you.’
Domenic’s parents, who nominated Thomas for the award, refer to Thomas as their ‘other son’.
‘He is better at handling Dom than we are. They do a lot together, Thomas is Domenic’s eyes,’ Debra Romeo said.
Domenic described Thomas as his brother, best friend and inspiration.
‘He deserves the award for all the help he has done for me,’ he said. ‘He is like my little brother and always by my side. He has helped me through everything.’