Courage to Come Back youth award recipient mentors others, dreams of being an artist
Posted June 16, 2023 7:12 am.
Last Updated June 16, 2023 7:13 am.
Over the past five days, we have heard many stories of ordinary people overcoming extraordinary challenges. Now it’s time for one more.
Danielle Laviolette of Surrey grew up in poverty, was diagnosed with autism at age seven, and just this past year lost her mother.
Still, the 19-year-old manages to smile through her challenges by giving back to her community and serving as a role model to others. Now, she is being recognized as the 2023 Courage To Come Back Award recipient in the youth category.
Laviolette has two older siblings but was the only child in her house growing up. With two parents on disability assistance, there wasn’t a lot of money to throw around for socializing or activities.
“Say, I wanted something for a special occasion, I couldn’t always get it because [my parents] were on disability,” she explained. “You know, when your parents say something to you, you don’t process it as [easily]. Especially with my autism, it’s even harder [for me] to process the word ‘no.’ And my dad knows that [for] a fact.”
Her autism also made her a target at school.
“I had no friends. They all would just bully me and tease me for being who I was. I didn’t have very many friends because of that,” she admitted.
“Sometimes, it’s hard when you have no friends because you’re always sad. [You] want someone to hang out with, you know? And with my autism, having no friends kind of had me be by myself.”
That began to change when she was invited to join the Metro Kids Society, a non-profit that operates free programs for vulnerable kids and preteens. Today, she’s a volunteer there. She gets emotional just talking about it.
“It’s important because one of these days, one of those kids is going to be like me. At least when they go there, they feel like people care about them. I hope one day I’ll be able to guide somebody into the position where I am now,” she said.
Today, she has dreams of being an artist, working in the field of Japanese animation.
“I plan on making a portfolio so I can try and get into art school, so I can eventually become an anime artist and maybe even make my own anime one day.”
Laviolette is thankful for the recognition of her Courage To Come Back Award.
“It feels great because I finally feel acknowledged, that I’ve actually done something good in my life,” she said.
CityNews is a proud sponsor of the Coast Mental Health Courage to Come Back Awards, celebrating 25 years of raising critical funds for British Columbians living with mental illness.