On Friday, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across a video that had been shared on Newsday that stopped me in my tracks. It tells the story of two twin brothers, Joe and John Tardif, and the special bond they have. I watched the one-minute video and wept. It’s one of the most moving pieces I’ve seen in a long time.
As Newsday reports, the boys are from Mattituck, New York, and were both born prematurely and not expected to survive. They are now teenagers; and their story is inspiring every one who meets them.
While Joe is a celebrated athlete at his high school, his brother John has quadriplegia as a result of cerebral palsy, and is non-verbal.
But in the video, you see the beautiful way these brothers spend time together and connect, regardless of their differences. Joe helps his brother with daily tasks like dressing and eating. John attends all of Joe’s games, proudly cheering him on. Joe is seen guiding John’s wheelchair around the bases at one of his games, while the crowd cheers for both brothers.
As a mother of two boys myself, I was beyond inspired by the loving bond between these brothers. It’s admirable for a young man like Joe to step up and help give his brother the support he needs. It’s also wonderful to be reminded that a child with a disability like John’s can be so completely accepted and included. We’ve all seen that sibling relationships are one of the most amazing bonds out there, and the one between Joe and John is no exception.
But I’m not the only person blown away by the video. It’s been quickly going viral ever since it was shared on Friday, with over 100,000 likes, 131,000 shares, and some 2,500 comments. As you can imagine, the comments are overwhelmingly positive.
One father found himself relating wholeheartedly with the video, writing: “Beautiful story! I’m a father of twins and this brings a huge smile to my face. The bond is so true and the love is unbelievable.”
Another commenter commended Joe and John’s parents for doing such a wonderful job raising them: “Well done mom and dad you raised two wonderful beautiful boys. Twins have a unique bond and that will never be broken.”
Babble was able to catch up with Joe and John’s family over email to find out more about their lives, why they decided to share their story, and their reaction to all the attention the video has gotten.
Joe elaborated a little more on the kinds of activities he and John do together, explaining, “We play baseball in the backyard, basketball in the pool. We go to the beach and on the boat together.”
Joe also went into further detail about how John participates in his sporting events, proving they really are quite a team. “He was the honorary captain for my varsity soccer team,” shared Joe. “At basketball games he would throw out the ball at the beginning of the games to the referee.”
The twins’ mother, Shelly Tardif, also shared with Babble what makes her most proud of her boys: “Time and again I am taken back by how humble, selfless and considerate they both are individually and together.”
Shelly also shared that her boys were born at 28 weeks, with John weighing 2 lbs., 6 oz., and Joe weighing only 1 lb., 13 oz. They were both hospitalized for a while after birth: John needed several surgeries and didn’t come home till he was 4 months old.
The boys’ diverse experiences in their early years is part of what makes their story so moving, and why their mom now brims with pride. “I am so proud of the men they have become, the lessons they have taught our family, and the inspiration they have instilled in others,” says Shelly.
Since the video went viral, Joe shares that people have been calling their house non-stop, and telling them how much the video means to them. Shelly says that Joe and Jon are “the new celebrities of Mattituck.” (How awesome is that?)
Shelly describes her sons’ connection as one of “unconditional love, compassion, and a bond that will never be broken.” But Shelly has a bigger message she wants out there. She tells Babble, “Although John can’t communicate verbally, he understands everything and gets more joy out of life than most people ever will. Beyond anything, I want people to be more cognitive of others with disabilities, sometimes it’s just a simple hello and you’ve made their day.”
Indeed, the boys have had a huge impact in terms of normalizing disabilities already with their video. I hope their message of compassion and love spreads far and wide — I know their story will have a lasting impact on me.
You can learn more about Joe and John Tardif by watching Newsday’s full interview with the two brothers.