AJ Bocchini remembers the first time in a wheelchair as a child.
It was at his father’s basketball practice, and his younger brother decided to push him around the gym.
“We went around a corner and I tipped out of the chair,” Bocchini said. “My glasses came off, I needed stitches, that sort of thing.”
His first time in a power wheelchair around the age of 6 did not go much better.
“I took out a milk machine at school, like one of those giant milk crates,” Bocchini said. “I basically ripped the electrical (cords) out. The wheelchair tech told me to drive and I went over his tool box. … It did not phase me one bit. I actually laughed it off.”
Shrugging it off would be hard enough for some adults, but Bocchini was doing it as a kid.
“When I was younger, I knew I had a choice of either being down in the dumps and ‘oh whoa is me’ about having CP (Cerebral Palsy),” he said, “or using my CP as a strength to show others what’s possible.
“For me, CP is not a disability. It’s given me the ability to use it as a platform and show the younger generation that may be going through something, whatever it is, anything is possible. … I’ve had some really cool experiences in life.”
Those experiences are some of the highlights in Bocchini’s new book “Finish.”
“We couldn’t be more proud of him,” said Bocchini’s father, Doug.
The 28-year-old Kohler graduate (2010) was born two months premature and diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy less than a year later.
“That was a tough time,” Doug said. “At the time, it was a pretty big setback in our lives, as it probably would be for anybody.”
Bocchini had roughly 12 surgeries to correct a variety of different things and had some walking skills at a young age, but the last time he walked without a walker was his First Communion.
He’s been in a wheelchair ever since.
“I didn’t write the book for personal gain,” Bocchini said. “I wrote it to help other people. Yes, there are stories on me, but every chapter has a different lesson and takeaway that hopefully the reader can apply to their own life.”
The title of the book comes from the time Bocchini was the manager of UW-Whitewater’s National Champion basketball team in 2014.
The coach asked him to speak to the team before the title game and Bocchini told them to finish. It was their time to finish.
UW-Whitewater even has the word ‘finish’ engraved on the inside of their championship ring.
After college, Bocchini coached basketball a few years and started writing the book in his spare time. Only he did not type the words, he spoke them thanks to software called voice recognition.
It took about two years to finish and was published in January.
Bocchini says he does not have a favorite story in the book, however.
“Because I learned so much in my whole experience,” he said. “Every stop, every step that I went through as I got older and the reflection of how I got here.”
One example is how Bocchini was planning on going back to school to finish his master’s degree but ran into some medical issues.
“I sort of let that get me down,” he said. “But instead, I battled through it and made it back. There’s a lot of different scenarios in which I hope people can take out of it.”
To order the book or for more information, visit http://www.ajbocchini.com