In May 2000, Joshua was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) a genetic disorder which destroys the nerves controlling voluntary muscle movement. The disease affects crawling, walking, head and neck control, and swallowing.
But despite his physical difficulties, it is apparent that Joshua exhibits a maturity beyond his age.
"He's just like any other child his age," said Pat Carney, his assistant at West Woods School. "If anything, he's more mature because of what he has been through at such a young age. When he is faced with a problem, he deals with it quickly, overcomes it and moves on."
Joshua's mother, Jennifer Tramontano, echoes Carney's sentiments toward her son.
"Even though Joshua has a physical disability, he is still Joshua," she said. "He's smart, social and funny. He enjoys all of the typical things that kids enjoy, he does therapeutic horseback riding, he loves SpongeBob SquarePants, he has friends and play dates."
But even with all of these normalities, Joshua faces a much more different and difficult life than his peers.
He has Type II form of the SMA disease, which affects infants between 7 and 18 months old. Type II patients typically can sit unaided or stand with support, but they are at increased risk for complications from respiratory infections.
The most devastating form of SMA is Type 1, which strikes infants between birth and six months. Fifty percent of babies with Type 1 SMA die before their second birthday.
Although there is currently no cure or treatment for SMA, Joshua is involved in clinical drug trials which seem to have shown an improvement in his strength.
Jennifer Tramontano said that hope for a cure for Joshua and others with SMA largely lies in the support of the community.
Because of this, Jennifer, her husband Harry Tramontano, and Carney have been on a constant mission to increase public awareness and to raise funds to benefit SMA research.
"We are hoping to stir up support and awareness from the community," Tramontano said. "We have received such positive support once people are aware of who Joshua is, and we're just trying to keep him in people's minds."
Both Tramontano and Carney stressed that because SMA is not a well known disease, it is often difficult to obtain support and recognition from the community as compared to more common medical conditions.
"SMA is a rare disease that does not get much publicity or financial support, and I believe that with just a few more of us Joshua has a chance to be cured," Carney said.
According to Carney, much of the community has rallied around Joshua and supported various fund-raisers, including a tag sale, coat drive, weekly lemonade stands during the summer and the annual SMArtWalk.
This year's SMArtWalk will be held on Sunday, April 24, at Brooksvale Park in Hamden.
The event will feature a 3 mile walk, hot dog roast, magic show, face painting and balloons and a raffle.
"Not only those who wish to participate in the walk can come, everyone is invited," Tramontano said. "It's a big social event; it's really a lot of fun."
Registration for the event is $10 and participants are also encouraged to collect pledges or make a lump sum donation.
Participants who register before April 10, will receive a free SMArtWalk t-shirt.
Businesses are also encouraged to participate by sponsoring the event. All business who commit to a $250 sponsorship will have their name printed on the SMArtWalk t-shirt.
According to Tramontano, last year's event generated more than $30,000 in proceeds that were donated to benefit FSMA.
"This year we'd like to raise our goal to $50,000," Tramontano said. "We'd be very grateful to reach that goal."
Aside from being the dedicated mother to Joshua and his 11 month old brother Daniel, Jennifer Tramontano is also the founder and current president of the Connecticut Chapter of the Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (FSMA).
The organization is completely volunteer driven and through donations and fund-raising is dedicated to providing support to families and understanding the cause, discovering treatments for SMA, and ultimately eradicating the disease.
"As a fund-raiser for the Connecticut Chapter of FSMA, Joshua, the little boy that I am so inspired by and long for a cure for, is the reason and my motivation," Carney said. "His mom is the president of the chapter and works everyday in some way to find a cure."
The grassroots efforts of the Tramontano's on behalf of the Connecticut chapter is typical of fund-raising efforts of the organization.
According to the organization's website, family fund-raising efforts and donations have enabled the organization to become the largest private funder of SMA research. Currently, 80 percent of donations go directly to research, while 17 percent goes to patient services.
"Just in the five years since Joshua's diagnosis and our involvement with FSMA, the research is progressing at a rapid pace," Tramontano said. "There really is a lot of hope for children with SMA, but it's going to take that last dollar that's going to cure it."
For additional information regarding either the walk or supporting SMA please contact Jennifer Tramontano at 203-288-1488 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations may be mailed to the FSMA Connecticut Chapter c/o Jennifer Tramontano at P.O. Box 185744, Hamden, CT 06518-5744.