A young West Island activist and advocate for people with disabilities was awarded the National Assembly’s medal of honour Wednesday.
Sammy Cavallaro, who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) has raised more than $2 million to find a cure for his disease.
“I’m so honoured and proud that I received this award,” said Cavallaro. “It means a lot to me that I can set an example to people in the community.”
Throughout his life, Cavallaro has beat the odds against him.
He was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy when he was a baby. Doctors told his parents he wouldn’t make it past two years old. Today, he’s 21 years old and thriving, in spite of the daily challenges the disease poses.
“So proud, no words can explain,” said Rosa Mariani of his son.
SMA is a degenerative disease that affects muscle movement.
“Brush your teeth, wash your face, go to the bathroom, scratch an itch, feed yourself…. everything you do, he’s not able to do for himself, he needs somebody to do it for him,” said Mariani.
But those challenges have never stopped Cavallaro.
“For me, the most important thing is to always stay positive and it’s all about the mindset. If you’re positive, you’re going to get through whatever you’re going to have to fight,” Cavallaro explained.
Cavallaro has dedicated himself to organizing “Sammy’s Valentine’s Ball” every February, an annual fundraiser to find a cure for SMA and to raise awareness about the disease.
Back in 2018, his advocacy work lead to the approval of a vital and very costly drug for patients who suffer from type 2 and and type 3 SMA called Spinraza.
Cavallaro also runs several sports podcasts across North America and popular Instagram accounts with a combined 7 million followers.
It’s all that work that earned Cavallaro a nod from the National Assembly.
“It’s not about only him, it’s about the spirit of Sammy Cavallaro. Every day is a good day,” said Monsef Derraji, the MNA for Nelligan and the person who awarded Cavallaro the medal of honour. “For me, as an MNA, it’s my inspiration.”
Cavallaro is turning 22 years-old in August. He says he will continue to dedicate himself to raising funds and awareness for SMA.