CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Zarriel Trotter's story has touched so many in Chicago.
At just 11 years old, he stood up against violence in a public service announcement. But last month, he was struck by a bullet cut as he walked home from a neighborhood park.
For the first time, he and his mother spoke with FOX 32 about what happened and what they now hope for.
Zarriel’s dream is to create a place that’s open 24 hours a day where kids can come and be safe, shoot hoops and eat for free. His mom is proud of that dream, but says it's hard not to blame herself for letting her son go outside and play.
“Once they heard the first gunshot, everybody tried to run, I tried to run and then I heard the bullet, I guess it hit me," Zarriel said.
He was hit in the lower back. The bullet went through his body, puncturing his intestines and just missing his stomach.
"I wasn't' expecting it to happen to me,” Zarriel said.
Zarriel, who is 13 years old, was returning home from the park when he walked into the middle of an argument on the street and someone pulled out a gun. The 7th grader, who was part of an anti-violence campaign two years ago, is now on a mission.
"I want kids to feel free to walk around without them worrying about gunshots and people getting killed, walk around to go to parties, parks freely, without them worrying about ‘oh, we can't go to that park because there's a lot of gangbangers, they are going to shoot’,” Zarriel said.
His mother, Alica, says it's hard not to blame herself for her son's injuries.
"I had been keeping him in the house since last summer to avoid confrontations and everything and the two days before I let him out, he got hurt on the second day,” Alica said.
Her top priority is making sure her son continues to be the same great kid he is now, and moving out of Austin on the city's West Side.
"My son got hurt and I'm sad to say it's not going to stop after him," Alica added.
"This kind of hit close to home when you hear all the things we've been through in Cabrini,” Marvin Edwards said.
Edwards is with "100 Men Standing." He and his brother grew up in Cabrini Green and are now helping Zarriel and his family.
“We have a check for 1000 dollars thanks to Bob Losen and Secretary of State Jesse White,” Edwards said.
This 13-year-old knows he's lucky to be alive.
Already at such a young age, he knows how he wants to spend his adult years - protecting other kids just like him.
"They can come to my place that I’m going to make or get made and it's going to be a basketball gym, free gym, free food, free everything,” Zarriel said.
Zarriel is not back in school yet and is very antsy to get back in class. Mom is hoping later this month sometime.
Police are still searching for the shooter.