Shooting victim spreads message that 'life isn't over' following paralysis
It’s not easy for Leo Sammarelli to think back to March 13, 2017.
"I was shot multiple times and it resulted in me being a paraplegic." Sammarelli told CTV News.
Sammarelli was the victim of a targeted shooting in North Vancouver, where he sustained four gunshot wounds.
Two years later, and he still struggles with how it happened.
"Well it was misidentification really, and just being, and you know, associated or friends with...here and there, things happen and it's ...you know," Sammarelli tried to explain.
The accident completely changed the life of the then 22-year-old.
Sammarelli went from being a national boxing champion, to spending months in hospital rehabilitating.
"We all get those thoughts of, you know, 'it's over, my life is done,'" Sammarelli said. "But it's the community that helped me as well, get back on my….I wouldn't say help me get back on my feet but in my chair, and really, if I can’t fight for myself I’ll fight for them, and that's what got me going to be a positive role model."
He calls this next stage of his life a "second opportunity" and is focused on making the most of it by giving back to the community that helped him while he was down.
"It's so easy to give up, so easy to just call it quits, to say 'I can't, but I can.' And that's where it all comes from," Sammarelli said.
Now 24, Sammarelli travels across North America to spread his message, and even to Cambodia to support children with disabilities. His next engagement, being Canada's lone ambassador at the Angel City Games, a premier adaptive sports festival in Los Angeles later this week.
"Sports is just, to unite one another. You don't think about the chair, you don't think about anything like that," Sammarelli explained. "You tear down boundaries. You're in the moment, you’re having fun, and that's why I want to support the Angel City Games."
It's all part of the healing process for Sammarelli, who has learned no obstacle is too big for him to overcome. He’s currently working on mastering swimming, wheelchair basketball, and even archery.
"It all reverts to sports," Sammarelli said. "I was able to converse myself in sports, and that really helped with the pain, the emotional, physical and psychological pain that I was dealing with."
Sports also helped him grow as a person.
"I feel like I’m a different person for the best. I think I’m doing a great job of what I’m going right now and it's only going to get better from here."
The Angel City Games runs June 20 to 23 at UCLA in Los Angeles.