Ross Salvo, a 12-year-old boy from Newtown, CT, was a very special human being! He was special in the way he lived, in the way he served, in the way he cared about others and in the way he overcame challenges.
In short, Ross was simply
ROSS’s EARLY DAYS
Ross was a twin and was born prematurely. He had serious health issues at birth and was given a less than 1% of living.
Despite this, he survived his first days of life, but the health problems continued. Shortly after birth, doctors learned that Ross had a brain injury and cerebral palsy.
Supported by his parents and family, Ross continued to fight for his life. By the time Ross was only 2 months old, he had already had 1 heart surgery and 3 brain surgeries. Despite many challenges, Ross made it through those early days and months. As one Doctor said, “there is no reason for him to be alive right now, but he is thriving!”
When he was a few years old, it became clear that Ross would have trouble walking. Eventually, he got crutches to help him. And sometimes he had to use a wheelchair. At this time, he started going to physical therapy sessions. These crutches, wheelchair and therapy sessions would be his companions for life.
But none of this stopped Ross from becoming the best version of himself and making a big impact on the people and world around him. The key was his amazing attitude, faith, and spirit. And having a family that supported him in everything he wanted to do! His family agreed to never say ‘no’ to things that Ross wanted to do or try.
And Ross wanted to do a lot! He wanted to be like everyone else. Where others saw differences, he saw things they had in common. As he once said to a kid who was being mean to him, “so I have crutches…what’s the difference?” His family said that he did not have a disability, but ‘differability’.
Ross was willing to try anything! And he did! He played soccer, basketball, joined scouts, learned kung fu, was an active member of the youth group at St. Rose of Lima church and, of course, he attended school, at Reed Intermediate. At school, he was also a member of the Garden Club and the sixth-grade chorus.
Not only did he try these activities, but he stuck with them, despite challenges. He was passionate about things he cared about.
In Kung Fu, he became a 2nd-degree brown belt at Schaolin Studio. He became a decorated Boy Scout with Troop 770 in Newtown. And he didn’t just do things to benefit himself. He spread his great attitude to the people and the community around him.
Ross liked to serve others. His parents were both Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Ross trained to be an EMT. He became a Junior EMT and helped his parents train others in CPR as a volunteer training assistant at Westport Volunteer EMS. At his church, he served as an altar boy regularly for many years.
His twin sister was his biggest fan. She would go support him at therapy sessions, cheer him on at his events and always be there for him.
ROSS’s IMPACT on OTHERS
Ross was also a great friend to many. He genuinely cared about other people and always tried to spread his great attitude to those around him. When people were struggling, he would encourage them. One time, he noticed one of his elementary teachers who looked to be struggling and with a smile, he said “It looks like you are having a bad day. Don’t worry, things will get better!”
As his teacher, Mrs. Shull said, “he appreciated and valued every moment and every activity that he was involved in. He was always so enthusiastic about everything he did. He truly treated each day as a gift.”
Ross’s teacher from 2nd grade, Amy LaRusso said, “Ross had his challenges, but he never complained or gave up whenever there was an obstacle. I am a better teacher and person because I had the privilege of having you…teach me.”
And here are some quotes from his classmates:
- “Even though he had a disability he was still the most caring person in the world.”
- “Ross always had a huge smile on his face and an ability to brighten someone’s day. He made a huge impact on everyone else’s life and made enough people smile for a lifetime.”
- “Ross was the happiest and nicest person in the entire class.”
- “He only cared about who you were as a person on the inside, not what you looked like on the outside.”
- “Even on his worst days, he made it seem like it was his best.”
- “He always made me laugh and would help anyone if he could.”
- “Even how much he might have been in pain, he was always so positive and had a special light that brought joy to everyone.”
- “He was the nicest kid I ever met.”
- “I loved how he was always smiling and he made sure everyone was happy.”
- “He has taught me to never give up.”
- “He never judged anyone.”
- “You couldn’t ask for a better friend.”
- “Ross taught me to always see the good in other people.”
- “He always had something exciting to share and despite the pain he was in, he was always happy and making other people happy.”
Ross gained a lot of his strength from his faith and his family. As he once told his school nurse when asked what his favorite food was: “I know this is going to sound weird, but my favorite food is my family. They just fill me up with so much love and they care for me so much that it satisfies and comforts me just like a favorite food would.”
One Christmas, when his longtime physical therapist, Colleen Weitekamp, asked what he wanted for Christmas, Ross said he wanted an Apple Watch. But it was his real motivation that was ROSSome. Ross told Mrs. Weitekamp the reason he wanted it was because he knew that his sister wanted one and if he got it, he could give it to her!
So, where is Ross today?
Early in 2018, Ross underwent a major surgery to fix his hip. While he started to recover, his health began to suffer. One day, during his 12th year, he was unable to bounce back. Ross passed away in June 2018 from complications related to his surgery.
A funeral was held at St. Rose. At the funeral were over a thousand people. Classmates, Boy Scouts, Teachers, Kung Fu friends, EMT’s, Firemen, Police, Altar Servers, Youth Group Friends and lots of family. It was an amazing tribute to a ROSSome life.
But while Ross is physically gone from the earth, his incredible attitude, impact, and spirit live on. And it is the wish of his family to have it spread further. The best way to honor Ross’ memory is to go out and be ROSSome, by doing what he did:
- Find at least one person each day and put a smile on their face
- Challenge yourself to do better every day
- Try new things all the time
- Stay positive, even in the face of great challenges
- Learn skills to help others, such as CPR
- Keep Calm and Be Rossome!
BECOME A ROSSponder!
You can even get involved and join Ross’s Responders! The organization, formed to honor Ross’s spirit of caring and his passion for Emergency Medicine, has a vision to spread CPR training around the world, starting at age 9. According to the American Heart Association, that is the age that children can learn and retain CPR training. And many times they pass along their learning to their parents and families.
Here is the story of a 13-year-old who saved a man’s life at a baseball game:
- Check out other InspireMyKids articles and quotes about courage and optimism
- View other inspiring InspireMyKids stories about kids with special needs
- Learn about the importance of CPR here thanks to KidsHealth.org
- Learn what it’s like to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
Topics for Discussion:
- What does it mean to be ROSSome?
- How do you handle difficulties in your own life?
- What do you think is most inspiring about Ross?
- Do you know anyone who has a great attitude despite their challenges?
- Would you like to learn CPR? Why or why not?
- Ross helped others at all times. What gifts and talents do you have that you can use to help someone you love, in your school or community?
- Get involved with Ross’s Responders here
- Here is a link to a Critical Reading Skills worksheet that you can use for elementary school students.
- Here is a link to a Critical Reading Skills worksheet that you can use for middle school students.