Gina’s Sweet 16

“Happy Birthday, Gina!”

These are words we wish we could say to our daughter today. More than that we long to see her beautiful smile and hear her bubbly reply of “thanks Mom and Dad”.  She knew she was loved and had a humble attitude of gratitude for the many good things in her life.

The last few weeks should have been joyful for our family as we planned for Gina’s birthday, and possibly a trip to celebrate it. Paris was her destination of choice. Ironic that the terrible fire at Notre Dame occurred last week and bought that city into the news. Additionally, there would have definitely been talk of her driving test and subsequent licensing. This would have been nerve wracking, as well as caused some headaches with increased insurance rates, worrying about a teen driver on the road, borrowing the car and such. As other families struggle with these challenges of raising teens, all I can say is try to embrace those challenges, because we wish we could experience those struggles, too. Please remember that our children are priceless and we must never lose sight of that.

On a brighter note, we have begun interviews with our scholarship finalists for the Gina Rose Montalto Memorial Foundation’s Girl Scouts Gold Award Scholarship. It was a pleasure to meet these strong, capable young women who share the spirit of serving others that Gina had. One of them will benefit from your donations, which were used to create the Foundation and award scholarships that will help keep Gina’s light shining.

This weekend saw both Easter and Passover celebrations. Hopefully, most were able to reflect on their faith and share good times with family and friends. Gina loved family celebrations. The bigger the better. We hope that we all can remember to love those closest to us and be kind to everyone. While we can’t be sure, it is possible that this may have been Gina’s birthday wish.

We love you Gina Rose and we wish we could celebrate your special day with you.

First Commemoration

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Gina was smart, kind, and wise beyond her years. She was selfless and caring. She adored spending time with her family and friends. She was a graceful dancer and an incredibly talented artist, yet she was humble when complimented. She was an excellent student who loved to learn and excelled in both STEM and the Arts. She would have undoubtedly contributed great things to this world.  She will be remembered as a gentle, caring and beautiful soul that was taken far too soon.

We miss Gina very much and ask that you help honor her memory by showing a little more kindness and compassion toward one another.

Please keep Gina and all the victims in your thoughts today.

Christmas Day Message

As your family gathers together today we ask that you all show patience and kindness to one another. You never know which of these get togethers may be the last for someone around the table. Our family is fortunate to have many warm memories of our previous Christmas celebrations. Many smiles and the sounds of laughter and joy are the sound track that accompanies these thoughts. We hope you all have similar experiences to warm you on these cold winter nights.

If you are not lucky enough to be in this position we encourage you to try and change that. Look to what you have that brings you together and set aside the differences. For those that host the holiday gatherings, please don’t let the pursuit of perfection ruin a great time. From all, we ask that you please try to be present with your loved ones today. Set aside the troubles of your work, school, or social media and enjoy those around you. Whether they be family or friends the people who gather with you this holiday are the ones who care about you most.

Thanks to all of you that offered kind words and support to our family in the wake of our horrible tragedy. Please keep us in your prayers because we need all the help we can get in order to work through everyday. Parents please hug your children a little longer today, and kids do the same with your parents. Your bond is forever but please never take it lightly. Reinforce it every chance you get.

Gina loved everything about Christmas from the decorations to the preparation (both spiritual and corporeal), and especially the family gatherings. So, in her honor, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving Day

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Thanksgiving day 2018, our family will gather together. We will cook. We will share a meal. We will watch football and we will try to keep our traditions going. Unlike most families, we will struggle to find something to be thankful for in the wake of the tragedy that took our daughter from us. We will be missing the smile, the laughter, and the joy that Gina brought to these family gatherings.

The hole in our lives since Gina was taken from us will once again be exposed to the light of day and the wound that we carry - every day - will be raw and painful. There will be tears a’plenty as we think of the wonderful child that was tragically taken from us. Her absence has taken much of the joy from our lives.

Only by coming together and holding each other in support will we be able to move through this day. It is not much different than any other day for us. Moments of joy and moments of deep, deep, sadness. Today we will once again be reminded that our family is different than others. Our days of experiencing unbridled joy are over. The best we can hope for are days where the smiles edge out the tears. Where we can remember to love those that are here and still hold Gina in our hearts.

Today we are hopeful that the memories of our beautiful daughter bring more smiles than tears. We know that is what Gina would want for all of us.

Today is Gina’s Birthday


Our beautiful girl would have been 15 today. She was looking forward to many things this year: another trip to Universal Studios, FL for the roller coasters and Harry Potter stuff, surf camp, and our summer trip to NY to see her cousins, Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents. The thing she was most looking forward to was getting her driving learners permit. She was eager to learn and explore the feeling of empowerment.  It would have been another step toward her independence. My wife and I hoped our children would be brave, strong, smart, and caring. We are proud of them both.

While it is extremely sad and devastating that Gina is not with us today we are trying to remember the good times and sweetness she brought to this world. Our family has gathered in Parkland, FL to comfort one another and share the smiles that the memories of Gina bring to our faces.

Through The Gina Rose Montalto Memorial Foundation our sadness is lifted, if only just a little. The Foundation will ensure that Gina’s purpose and spirit will not be lost with her passing. With your donations to the Foundation we will continue to inspire young adults to go on and accomplish greatness in life, something we are sure Gina would have done given the chance.

We will miss Gina every day and she will never be forgotten.

Happy Birthday Gina Rose!

March for Our Lives

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Yesterday was a powerful day for this nation. At many locations around the country people gathered to show their support for a change in the status quo. Thank you to those of you who took part in these events.

We stayed at home in Parkland. I spoke at the March for Our Lives event here to thank our community for its support, and tell the student leaders how proud we are of them. I reminded the gathered crowd of the roll the victims’ families have played in helping to enact the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act into law here in Florida.

Most importantly to our family – I spoke to honor my daughter Gina. 

Spaghetti and Corned Beef

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Today is St. Patrick's Day. It's a day we celebrate with family and friends, lots of laughter and good spirits. Needless to say today is different, celebrated with a heavy heart. 
Jen found a poem Gina had written a few years ago. The poem was titled "Where I'm From." In that poem there is a line that reads "I'm from Italy and Ireland, spaghetti and corned beef." Gina was proud of her Italian-Irish heritage. 
She loved St. Patrick's Day and our celebration. Each year since she was in 2nd grade she baked a soda bread for our family. She loved to tease her mom while cooking the corned beef and cabbage in the kitchen. Gina would say that St. Patrick's Day was her 3rd favorite holiday. 
At her funeral the Archbishop of Miami spoke of an Irish headstone which reads "death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
Today we feel the truth of those words.

Be Kind to Everyone

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Dear Grieving Students,
Thank you for all of the lovely notes and for sharing your memories of Gina. I would like it if you could do a few things for me. Please remember to hug your Mom and Dad every day. Go out and live your life like Gina lived hers. Be kind to everyone. Work hard at everything you do. Go on to accomplish great things in this world, because that is what Gina was going to do.