NEW YORK - On a recent day, Michael Carbonaro was overcome with emotion at his home on Staten Island. "This is like a dream come true," he said. But understanding why he felt that way means backing up a bit.
"He wasn't doing the things that other kids do at Mommy and Me [classes], at some point it was torturous," Kelly, Michael's mother, said. "I said to my husband, 'He can't do the things the other kids can do.'"
Doctors diagnosed Michael, now 26, with autism when he was 2.
"It was like being punched in the gut. I just blamed myself," Kelly said. "As a mom, when something is wrong with your child, you blame yourself."
By 4, Michael still wasn't speaking until one day he saw something on television that inspired him to speak.
"He looked up at the TV and he said, 'I want to do that.' I stopped dead in my tracks," Kelly said. "I said, 'What?' I looked at him and he said, 'Skating.'"
"After she finished crying, she took me to the rink on Clove Road, and the rest, as they say, is history," Michael said.
He took to the ice immediately. He is still going strong now and even coaches other young skaters.
"It feels like I'm naturally alive, naturally breathing," Michael said. "I love the feeling of being on the ice, feeling free, it gives me so much joy when I'm on the ice."
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He often posts his skating videos on social media. One post caught the attention of Autism Speaks. The nonprofit has a Kindness Connections campaign to fulfill the dreams of people with autism.
Michael said he dreamed of meeting 1984 Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton.
"I just love Scott Hamilton for the fact he loves to entertain the crowd," Michael said.
Hamilton, a cancer survivor, spent his early childhood years in and out of the hospital. He told me he happily agreed to help.
"This particular video really touched my heart," Hamilton said. "It really allowed me to understand the things we do day to day that we don't think about can really touch and move people to better themselves and to reach higher."
"It was awesome," he added. "It was just really awesome."
Everyone agreed it should be a surprise. They gathered at home. Then it finally happened — Hamilton appeared via a videocall.
"Oh my god. Oh my god," Michael said. "Is this happening right now?"
Hamilton told Michael that he loved his skating.
"I love how you express yourself," Hamilton said. "It's so good to meet you."
"I love your skating. I'm shaking right now — literally shaking," Michael said. "Oh, I have looked up to you for so long."
"Well, thank you. It's such an honor and a pleasure to meet you," Hamilton said.
So how was it?
"That was the best day of my life," Michael said. And that is what he meant by "a dream come true."