EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — Hundreds of people gathered at Goddard Memorial State Park in East Greenwich for the first ever Gianna Cirella Memorial 5k.
The 16-year-old Toll Gate Junior died suddenly last November, after battling pneumonia and sepsis.
Sunday was Tara Cirella’s first Mother’s Day without her daughter Gianna, but she chose this day specifically for the first ever Gianna Cirella Memorial 5k.
“I needed to wake up and have a purpose, Mother’s Day needed to have a purpose for me,” said Tara. “This turned out to be a pretty good reason. Very emotional, a couple times it was overwhelming and really difficult when the reality of it hit, but there’s nothing better for me to do right now.”
Hundreds of runners and walkers came out, to help raise money for the memorial fund in Gianna’s name.
“I’m working with the sepsis committee at Hasbro, I will sit on that committee as a parent advocate,” Tara added. “But also we want to help families that are actually in Hasbro, keep it close to home, that are dealing with sepsis.”
Participants sported their #gistrong shirts, other wearing purple shirts bearing the number 12 like Gianna’s soccer jersey, a number that will forever be hers.
“I wanted to retire the jersey and make sure nobody on the soccer team wears 12 again,” said Toll Gate High School soccer coach Lonna Razza. “I thought it was a really good tribute to her to show our support and to show how much she meant to the program.”
Gianna’s jersey will now forever hang in the halls of the school.
“Letting these incoming students know year after year after year that you won’t see a number 12 on the girls soccer team anymore, but let me tell you about Gianna, what a great great kid she is, the energy, the fun lovingness, the compassion for other people,” adds Lonna.
Gianna’s teammates, finished the 5k with sneakers in hand, in honor of their friend.
“It was her thing, she ran barefoot, used to drive the coach crazy”, said Tara. “When that happened I just saw a whole lot of Gianna I just felt like if she was here, that’s where she was, right in the middle of the team with her girls.”
Gianna’s mother adds it’s ironic she chose a 5k as the fundraiser, because Gianna despised running.
To learn more about The Gianna Cirella Memorial Fund, you can click here.