The gunshot exploded through the night air smashing the glass of the sandwich shop and shattering the spine of Louise Russo. She had stopped to get her daughter a late night snack and now she was lying on the floor, bleeding and unable to move.


Months of surgery and therapy followed. She was alive, but she was facing a new world filled with wheelchairs, health issues, a devastated family and the continued care of a special needs child. Through the dark days of her despair came a moment of inspiration. “I wanted to turn a horrible tragedy into something positive.”

Russo was injured by an underworld hit gone wrong, but children and youth were her passion. She decided to reach out to communities torn apart by violent crime. Since 2006 she has hosted two well attended public walks against violence, has talked to more than 30,000 students in schools, and she created the Louise Russo Youth and Leadership Awards. Her message is clear, “Young people need to believe in themselves and realize their voices do count.”

The gentle, shy and unassuming Russo has become the face and force of an anti-violence movement in Canada. Now it’s time to help and lend your voice to the cause. Applications are being accepted from across Canada for the 2011 Youth and Leadership Awards. They’re looking for young people between the ages of nine and 19 who have shown leadership to reduce violence in their communities. Do you know someone? Is it you? Take a stand against violence with Louise Russo and make it a turning point for you and your community.


Applications can be downloaded from the website: