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5 remarkable Hamilton women we met in 2014

Here's a look at a group of remarkable women whose stories you might have missed in 2014. Each one made Hamilton a better place over the last twelve months.
Leah Gallo holds a necklace with a photo of her daughter Maia. Maia died at a Burlington mall last year after eating ice cream. Her death inspired a pilot project that sees Hamilton mall security guards carry epinephrine auto injectors. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Every year, Hamilton introduces us to amazing, talented and inspiring people. At CBC Hamilton, we do our best to make sure you get to meet them too. We've met so many in 2014 that it's worth reminding you of a few of those who moved our readers the most.

Here's a look at a group of women whose stories you might have missed in 2014. Each one made Hamilton a better place over the last twelve months.

1. Leah Gallo

Maia Santarelli-Gallo died in 2013 when she collapsed from a food allergy in a food court. (Gallo family)

2014 was the year that Hamilton became the first place in Canada to have mall security guards carry epinephrine auto injectors. This program will save lives. And it exists because Leah Gallo and her husband Vincent lost their 12-year-old daughter Maia. Maia collapsed and died in a Burlington mall in 2013. She died after eating ice cream. Hamilton has begun a one-year pilot project in which Anaphylaxis Canada trained mall guards at Jackson Square on how to use auto injectors. Leah and Vincent attended the launch. "The only thing we can do is prevent it from happening again," she said.

2. Aivana

Aivana survived a bomb blast in her native Iraq when she was seven. (Denise Davy)

High school is tough enough for the average 17-year-old. But try getting used to it after growing up in classrooms in the middle of a war. When Aivana was seven, her teacher was killed in a bomb blast in her native Iraq. She saw her teacher die. She survived that bombing and a kidnapping attempt too. It's trauma that she still carries with her in her Hamilton classrooms at St. Jean de Brebeuf Secondary School. She has found support in 'Let's Talk Girls,' a program offered by the YMCA's Settlement Workers in Schools.

3. Talli Osborne

Talli Osbourne inspired crowds at Supercrawl in 2014. (Marsha Z.)

Talli Osborne was born without arms and missing bones in her legs. At Supercrawl in 2014, she spoke to crowds at the music festival about our notions of beauty. Osborne is an inspirational speaker and musician. She's suffered as the target of cruel comments about her appearance and turned that derision into a positive message about true beauty. At 19, she stopped wearing prosthetic arms and legs that made her look taller. She told CBC Hamilton, “The reason I couldn’t be like everyone else is because I’m not. And I love that. Just love yourself – love your body. Embrace it.”

4. Brooke Hamilton

Brooke Hamilton is recovering well after a psychotic break in 2014. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Earlier this year, people on Twitter may have saved the life of a young woman in Hamilton. Her name is Brooke Hamilton and March 6 was one of the darkest days of her life. She has schizoaffective disorder and took to Twitter that day and inadvertently live-blogged her psychotic episode. Caring people in Hamilton noticed and worked to get her help. That was then. She got the help she needed and now keeps a blog, Queen Of The Whirl, that has recorded her recovery. You should get to know Brooke Hamilton.

5. Terri Wallis

Terri Wallis ran for council in Ward 2 in 2014. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Terri Wallis is the candidate who was up for election in 2014 who, if she had won, wouldn't have made it through the doors into council chambers. Wallis is in a wheelchair and that won't get you into Hamilton's council chambers. Renovations in 2010 forgot to make the room accessible. How about that? Wallis lost in Ward 2 to incumbent Coun. Jason Farr but came in to the race with an impressive political resume, having worked for federal NDP campaigns and as the campaign manager former Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board chair Jessica Brennan. Impressed yet? No? She also has a second-degree black belt. 

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