Woman Injured by Teenage Prank has 'No Room For Vengeance'

Michael Ireland

Woman Injured by Teenage Prank has 'No Room For Vengeance'

LONG ISLAND, NY (ANS) -- Seven years ago, Victoria Ruvolo was nearly killed when a teen deliberately hurled a 20-pound frozen turkey at her car, where it crashed through her windshield and struck her with brute force. Ruvolo sustained serious injuries and required hospitalization for three months as she fought her way back.

But, according to a FOX News story, Ruvolo would insist that she’s no victim, something that she explains in her new book – “No Room for Vengeance” – which was made possible by the simple act of forgiving the teenager whose prank came close to costing her her life.

“I truly believe if I would have held on to that revenge and anger, I would still be in [the hospital] trying to come back to who I am,” she says. “Forgiveness is not just for that person, but it’s also for you. I will not allow anyone else to take control of my life; I’ll be in control of my life.”

FOX News said the release of Ruvolo’s book comes just after a similar shocking story made news around the country, in which Manhattan mother Marion Hedges was severely injured after kids pushed a shopping cart off of a fourth floor walkway onto the ground below. It landed on Hedges.

In her journey toward healing, Ruvolo encourages Hedges to take the same path that worked for her seven years earlier, FOX News said.

“Unfortunately, kids do stupid, ridiculous things,” she said, “and [my message to them] is stop and take one second to think, because everything we do in this world affects someone else.”

On Nov. 16’s CNN OutFront program, hosted by Erin Burnett, the anchor set up the scene for viewers.

Burnett said it was a cold, dark and wet night in November 2004 when Victoria Ruvolo was driving home from seeing her niece sing. Just a few moments before she got home, something impossible to imagine happened -- a 20-pound frozen turkey thrown by a teen from a passing car came smashing through her window as she was driving. She almost died, was in a coma.

Her book, No Room for Vengeance, is just out, and describes how she did something that no one expected.

Burnett asked Ruvolo to explain what happened that night. “I know you don't have any memory still, right, of the exact moment?” Burnett said.

“Oh, no, I don't have no memory whatsoever,” said Ruvolo. “Like you said, I was going to see my niece sing and then I was going home because the rain became a rainy, wet snow and I wanted to leave and get home because I don't like to drive in the snow. And that's all I remember. I didn't wake up until a month later, and I was already in the rehab hospital. I don't even remember the wonderful hospital that took care of me.”

Burnett said Ruvolo’s recovery was miraculous. “People thought it would take an incredible amount of time. You were in great physical shape. There were physical reasons for it. But then there was one really significant mental reason.

“Tell me why you decided to not hate the person who did it to you,” Burnett asked Ruvolo.

“Well, you know, it's funny because Dr. Robert Goldman -- who wrote the book, and we're in there together -- he actually never believed me when ... they told me about the incident when I was in the rehab hospital, that I actually said, ‘Do those kids realize how much they ruined their lives as much as they ruined mine?’

“He never believed that I ever said that until he went to interview everyone and was amazed that I actually said that. So, you know, I just truly believe that -- you know, to me it just seemed like such a stupid, ridiculous act. What -- you know, and finding out that they were kids, just knowing that it wasn't meant for me and it was just a stupid, ridiculous act.”

Burnett stated that those who threw the turkey at Ruvolo “were kids who had stolen a credit card from a family car who was at the movies, they went to the grocery store, bought a turkey, they got scared. And then one of the kids threw it out the window. That kid is Ryan. He was the one who was going to go to jail.”

Burnett then played a video clip of Ryan Cushing, one of the youngsters involved. Here's what he said about Ruvolo: “I told her I'm so happy she's doing well and I'm so sorry. I just wanted to go on with her life, and I love that woman. She's a wonderful person.”

Ruvolo and Cushing now do a program together to help kids like Ryan.

“Well, we did that, you know. His -- Ryan's community service was to speak to other kids about his stupid, ridiculous act and actually try to help them not to do that. And that was a program created by Dr. Robert Goldman called the TASTE Program, stands for Thinking Errors, Anger Management, Social Skills and Talking Empathy,” Ruvolo said, adding: “And Ryan would speak at the first class, you know, Thinking Errors, and I would speak at the last class, which I still do. Ryan had to do that for his community service for one year, but then he continued and volunteered for an additional three years."

Cushing could have gone to jail for maybe the rest of his life, for 20-plus years.

He didn't because Ruvolo went to the judge and said, "Don't do it."

“Actually,” said Ruvolo, “I spoke with the D.A., and I actually -- which they all thought I was nuts and looked at me and said, what are you, crazy? You're too easy.

“But they listened to me. I just couldn't see how taking a child who did a stupid, ridiculous act and putting him -- sending him away for 25 years, you know, what would that do? You know, make him more bitter, more angry and come out and do something worse?”

Six years ago, Victoria Ruvolo was Beliefnet’s Most Inspiring Person of the Year.

In an online article for Beliefnet, editor-in-chief Steven Waldman says: “We tried something a bit different in choosing this year's Most Inspiring Person. In the past, we had two final selections -- one made by Beliefnet's editors and one ‘people's choice’ winner chosen by our readers. This year [2005], the process was collaborative. The community and the editorial team nominated a large field of candidates, editors picked a slate of 12 inspiring people, then through daily votes on the site the readers narrowed down that field to the final three, and the editors made the final selection of Victoria Ruvolo.”

Waldman says the surprise was that, thus empowered, Beliefnet's readers systematically knocked all of the most famous candidates out of the running.

“Victoria Ruvolo, the Long Island woman who urged a judge to deal leniently with her assailant, got more votes than Rick Warren, the mega-preacher and best-selling author who is now giving away most of his money to help fight disease, illiteracy and poverty in Africa, David Rozelle, an American soldier who lost his foot in Iraq and then returned to combat, beat out rock star-activist Bono, despite his work with world leaders to combat global poverty and injustice.”

Waldman says the three finalists selected by his readers -- Alex Scott, David Rozelle and Victoria Ruvolo – had one thing in common: Each was an "ordinary" person who, when faced with difficult circumstances, did extraordinary things.

“Each exhibited qualities we wish we had, but fear we don't,” he wrote at the time.

Waldman asks: “If Victoria Ruvolo can manage to quell her anger, summon such wisdom and sense gratitude in the wake of such a calamity, can't we do the same in less difficult situations?”

In the end, says Waldman, Beliefnet selected Victoria Ruvolo of Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., as its Most Inspiring Person of 2005.

What moved Beliefnet about Victoria's story?

Waldman stated: “Part of what so moved us about Ruvolo was the excruciatingly random nature of her tragedy. It could have happened to any of us. Nov. 13, 2004, Ruvolo was just driving home from work when her world collapsed. A group of teenagers had stolen a credit card and gone on a joy ride with some of the items they'd bought. They thought it would be amusing to throw a frozen turkey into moving traffic. The turkey smashed through Ruvolo's windshield, shattering her face and nearly killing her. She spent a month in a medically induced coma, had extensive cosmetic surgery to reconstruct her face, and was released still dependent on a tracheotomy tube to breathe.

“In the face of such suffering at the hands of another person, most of us would be filled with deep, unquenchable rage,” Waldman said.

Ruvolo instead consoled the teenager who had done this to her, Ryan Cushing. And on Oct. 17, 2005, at Cushing's sentencing, she asked the judge for leniency and read the following statement: "Despite all the fear and the pain, I have learned from this horrific experience, and I have much to be thankful for. ... Each day when I wake up, I thank God simply because I am alive. I sincerely hope you have also learned from this awful experience, Ryan. There is no room for vengeance in my life, and I do not believe a long, hard prison term would do you, me, or society any good."

Ruvolo added: "Kindness and giving is the best way -- you get so much more out of life when you give."

Waldman writes that Ruvolo was firm with Cushing, pointing out that he deserved some punishment. She said she was giving him a second chance and challenged him "to seek an honorable life."

According to Beliefnet’s Waldman, Ruvolo was raised a Catholic and describes herself as "a spiritual person."

“A lot of people say they're Christian or practitioners of a particular faith and yet few of us come close to embodying the ideals of our faith. Ruvolo is one of the most Christian Christians we've come across in ages,” Waldman said.

Ruvolo told Beliefnet: "I want to see him grow up and become a good part of society. I always thought you treat people the way you want to be treated. Kindness and giving is the best way -- you get so much more out of life when you give."

Instead of dwelling on what she'd lost, Ruvolo chose to focus on what she'd gained and to take strength from the blessings in her life.

Waldman said: “Victoria Ruvolo's humanity puts everything into perspective. If she could forgive Ryan Cushing for what he did, can't we forgive our friends or enemies for wrongs much less heinous? If she can manage to quell her anger, summon such wisdom, and sense gratitude in the wake of such a calamity, can't we do the same in less difficult situations?"

Waldman wrote at that time:“We look at Victoria Ruvolo and we all feel ennobled, empowered and grateful. That's why we choose Victoria Ruvolo as the Most Inspiring Person of 2005.”

Michael Ireland is the senior international correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station.

Publication date: November 28, 2011