Jason Decrow  /  AP
The Boniello family, from left, sextuplets Trifon, Olivia (bottom in pink), Sabrina (top in red), Sophia, Stella and Gerard, mother Beverly, six-year-old Nadia and father Rocco. At the time of their birth, the Boniello sextuplets were only the third known set of sextuplets to survive in the U.S. and only the 10th to survive in the world.
updated 4/6/2007 9:32:58 AM ET 2007-04-06T13:32:58

Back in 1997, the six Boniello babies set a U.S. record for the longest sextuplet pregnancy — 29 weeks and one day. Each weighed barely 2 pounds.

A lot has changed in 10 years. The four sisters and two brothers are now healthy, thriving fourth-graders with their own unique personalities, from the soccer player to the knitter to the tomboy who loves to climb trees.

On Thursday, they all celebrated their birthday on the campus of the Stony Brook University Hospital, where they were born and where they all have been promised full-ride college scholarships. Six personalized cakes were presented to Trifon Robert, Olivia Fredericka, Sabrina Juliet, Gerard Martin, Sophia Betty and Stella Raquel.

“They’ve been blessed,” said their mother, Beverly Boniello, 37. “They have no health issues; it’s amazing.”

'Quite normal'
Premature sextuplets like the Boniellos can be at risk for developmental or neurological problems.

“The fact that these six children appear to be quite normal, and according to their parents there’s no substantive difficulties in school that’s apparent, I think is really phenomenal,” said Dr. Richard Fine, dean of the Stony Brook University Hospital school of medicine. “Why this happened? I have no idea.”

The kids are just like any others their age, their parents said. Trifon likes soccer, Sophia does bowling, Gerard takes piano lessons, Sabrina did gymnastics, Olivia likes knitting.

“And Stella is ... she’s a bit of a tomboy,” said their father, Rocco Boniello. “She’ll be wearing a dress and have a purse on hanging upside down from a tree or digging in rocks all day.”

Acting as the spokesman for his siblings, Trifon — technically the oldest — stood on tiptoes at a podium to address members of the media gathered for the celebration. Their birthday was March 24.

“My family and I are glad to be here and thanks for the scholarships,” he said shyly.

When asked later what it’s like to have so many siblings, Trifon confessed: “It’s tiring, because I don’t know who to play with.”

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For their mother, a former mail carrier, running the Williston Park household is a full time job. The parents have tried to provide as normal a lifestyle as possible, including avoiding publicity for a decade.

When the sextuplets were babies, the Boniellos relied heavily on relatives and friends to help with chores — including an estimated 72 bottles and 70 diapers per day.

“We had terrific garbage men back then, because we threw out the foulest garbage,” Rocco Boniello recalled, laughing.

But his wife said it had all become a matter of routine. “I make their lunches the night before; they’re showered and everything the night before,” she said.

In the morning before school, “the cereal bowls are on the table with the cereal. They eat, they dress themselves. They’re good in the morning, they’re very responsible when it comes to getting ready for school.”

The sextuplets are divided into pairs at the Center Street School. They change partners once a year, so each has attended class with a different sibling.

The party was held on the campus where they will eventually attend college — tuition free.

Rocco Boniello, a technician with Verizon, said the $100,000-plus scholarship offer — made by Stony Brook President Shirley Strum Kenny after the births — is something he already appreciates.

“I’m not going to lie; this helps considerably,” he said. “A family of seven in New York today, it’s really tight.”

That’s right, he said seven. When the sextuplets were about 4, their mother gave birth to another little girl, Nadia.

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