Special needs not a disability for cafe worker

Best Buddies participant Peter Filosa follows his passions from sports to advocacy to meeting his heroes

Few people have had the chance to be featured on television numerous times, pitch at Fenway Park, act alongside Adam Sandler, introduce their state senator at his victory party, be close friends with a national heavyweight boxer, compete in multiple sports and also be involved with the student population of both Boston and Brandeis universities.

Peter Michael Filosa, an employee with special needs at Usdan Café (more popularly known as Lower Usdan), has been busy juggling all of these activities, participating in each with tireless passion.

Filosa has thrown the ceremonial first pitch for approximately 10 different baseball teams in the minor leagues, the Cape Cod League and the Boston Red Sox.

It all began with his love for baseball, which led him to write the Red Sox a letter.

Former Red Sox catcher “Doug Mirabelli was my personal catcher at the time and ever since then I’ve been going from team to team and doing what I love – being on a real pitcher’s mound, being able to throw pitches, and being able to play baseball on a real field,” Filosa says. Having already thrown for teams like the North Shore Pride, the Manchester FisherCats, the Portland Sea Dogs, he next intends to write the Toronto Blue Jays and Colorado Rockies to throw for them as well.

He proudly displays a ball in a glass case. He calls it his “legendary ball” because it’s a souvenir of his Fenway Park experience – despite his dissatisfaction with the recent trade that moved some key players from the Red Sox to Los Angeles.

Baseball is just one of Filosa’s many sports.

“My favorite sport is hockey. I play for a special-needs hockey team called the East Coast Jumbos and I love getting back on the ice to get ready for hockey season,” he says. “I play Special Olympics soccer. I play basketball for the Special Olympics – I play for the Newton Celtics.”

Filosa loves professional wrestling the most though, and recently received free tickets to see WWE Smackdown in the lower sections. “I love professional wrestling. I live and breathe it,” he says. “I like the Undertaker, the man from Death Valley. I’m going to be wearing his costume for Halloween.”

As much as he likes watching wrestling however, he wants to become an actor some day. “Two summers ago, I did a movie called 'Grown Ups', a movie directed by Adam Sandler. I was the guy who was sitting right behind Adam Sandler in the restaurant scene when he was yelling at the food guy. You can see my mom turns her head to look at the argument,” he recalls.

“I did a Mark Wahlberg film called 'The Fighter' and I was sitting high up in the audience for the fight scenes and I had to do some pretend-cheering like this,” he says, pumping his fist. "Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are planning to do a movie together in Boston next summer with their company called 'Pearl Street Productions' and I hope to do some more background extra work in the upcoming years and during the summer months.”

Filosa has been employed at Brandeis for the past four years and has been actively involved with the students.

“At Christmas I get dressed up for the Brandeis holiday party,” he says. “I go as Santa Claus and I have a brand new Santa Claus suit that I just got a couple months ago from the Hope Chest in Millis, Mass."

He also is involved with Brandeis Buddies, an organization from the Waltham Group that builds friendships between students and adults with developmental disabilities. “My Brandeis Buddy – her name is Elizabeth – and my other buddy Michelle, are two of my favorite people,” he confides. “I like Brandeis Buddies very much.”

Brandeis Buddies Co-Coordinator Elizabeth Fields ’13 met Filosa in her first year and is a good friend of his.

“Peter is an extremely caring and warm person. He is very outgoing,” says Fields. “One of my fondest memories of Peter was his dressing up for our holiday party. We were all in the room waiting for him to arrive and in walked Peter in a full Santa Clause costume complete with a white beard! He brought a smile to everyone's face.”

Filosa is involved with a similar program called BU Best Buddies, sponsored by Boston University, and has become co-buddy director of that program this year. The premise of building friendships between students and adults is the same, but missing the BU program is more individualized than the Brandeis program.

His leadership roles don’t stop there. Filosa was elected this year to a three-year term on the MASS Advocates Standing Strong board and is also a part of the Watch City Self-Advocates in Waltham. He visits Watertown and Whitinsville for meetings in regards to these programs every month.

Filosa has also met with many celebrities. He has held signs for Denise Garlick, state representative of Dover, Needham, and Medfield, and will be holding signs for Joseph Kennedy III this November. He and Garlick met at Camp Arrowhead when Filosa was only six years old and Garlick was camp nurse. They have become close friends since her campaign.

One of his best friends happens to be Peter McNeeley of Medfield, a heavyweight boxer and winner of the USBF Championship in 1995. Filosa was at an event a few months ago where “He was there signing autographs. So I went up to him and he said, ‘Hey, is that Peter Filosa?’ and I said, ‘Yeah!’ So Peter ‘The Hurricane’ McNeeley remembered me right off the bat and gave me a big hug and I told him how happy I was to see him again.”

Filosa has also had his voice air on national television through an on-show interview for the "X Factor" and met with The Fray, a popular band.

Whether competing in sports or speaking with state politicians, Filosa manages to do it all with a smile on his face.

“I’m known now as the local legend from Medfield, Mass. – Mr. Peter Filosa,” he says. “I am the one and the only local legend. I hope that all the students at Brandeis will now know the local legend. And if anybody wants it, I’ll give out free autographs!”

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