Purple was the preferred color at Thayer Arena Friday night when the Lady Titans played Mount St. Charles, followed by a game between the Toll Gate boys hockey team and Coventry.
The color was for Gianna Cirella, the 16-year-old Toll Gate sophomore and soccer player who died this fall from blood poisoning.
But there was more to the games than wearing purple to remember Gianna. The games were the first event hosted by the Gianna Cirella Memorial Foundation. An aim of the foundation is to keep the memory of Gianna alive, yet it is so much more than that, explained Gianna’s mother, Tara.
Gianna’s death, she said, was in a way a perfect storm. Gianna had a sore throat that was followed by pneumonia and the blood infection that killed her. Until Gianna’s affliction, her mother said she had little knowledge of the powerful killer, sepsis. At Kent Hospital alone there are an estimated 800 cases, with the mortality rate running as high as 30 percent.
Tara found there were parents like her going through the agony of watching their child fight for their life. Sepsis is not limited to children. She was startled that more hasn’t been done to battle the infection, and from her perspective, she said, research has been sporadic, with work sliding to a stop when funding becomes scarce.
Tara would like to bring progress on two fronts. She would like to see more support of families who have a loved one fighting for their life and she would like to see more research.
Funds raised by the foundation will go toward research and helping families faced with similar situations. In addition, Tara talks of a scholarship in Gianna’s name. Tara also plans to redirect funds generated by a GoFundMe drive to help pay for medical bills into the memorial.
Asked if she thought the fund could raise anywhere near the amount needed for research, Tara replied, “Someone has to start. Why not her?”
Tara is in awe of the community support she received and continues to get.
“It’s pretty amazing,” she said. Tara said the soccer team “lived” at the hospital for the two weeks Gianna fought for her life.
“I love them,” she said. “I would do anything for these kids.”
“I feel it is only right that we keep it [fund raising] going.” She notes that Gianna always stepped up for her teammates and her classmates. “I feel that it is only fair that I don’t let her down now,” she said.
The foundation has planned a gala evening at The Crowne Plaza on April 20 and a 5K to be held on Mother’s Day, May 13. Tara described both events as being “happy and full of life.”