Gianna Cirella carved out quite a legacy for herself at Toll Gate High School.
Cirella passed away tragically last fall when she was stricken with sepsis, a blood infection that impacts vital organs and causes them to fail rapidly. She was 16 years old at the time.
Since then, the Toll Gate and Warwick community have mourned the loss while also celebrating the life that she lived, and the positive impact she made on those around her.
“Gianna was a kid that you would never know if she was upset or not. She always had a smile on her face. She was always polite, respectful, free-spirited, had compassion for people and animals. She had respect for her country, she was just an all-around great kid. She was fun loving, she had a great sense of humor,” said Toll Gate girls soccer coach Lonna Razza, who coached Cirella.
Cirella wore No. 12 on the soccer field when she competed for the Titans last fall, and will be the last to wear it as Toll Gate recently retired the number in her honor.
Razza and the Toll Gate athletics department felt that retiring Cirella’s number was very much deserved, as she epitomized what it meant to be a leader, hard-worker, and student athlete.
“She always came to practice ready to work hard. She would always cheer her teammates on even when she wasn’t in the game, she was very supportive,” said Razza. “I have a very close-knit group of girls and they loved her and loved being around her. She made everyone laugh and smile and she made my life a lot easier as a coach.”
Warwick recently held the first annual Gianna Cirella Memorial 5k Walk/Run. All proceeds went towards sepsis research, as well as providing scholarship money for local soccer players … which was fitting considering she too was beginning to prepare for college and playing soccer at the next level.
“It was a great day, it went very, very well. It was the perfect day to have it on Mother’s Day. There was a lot of people, over 400 participants. That’s not even including volunteers and people that were just there to spend time,” said Razza, who also assisted in planning the 5k and number retirement. “At the day of the walk her jersey was presented. Colby Lucier, a Warwick firefighter, was the one who did all of the woodworking and shadowboxing so we presented it that day. It was the first time her parents saw it. It was emotional, her mom knew that I wanted to retire the number and she definitely did not expect that as it came out. It was emotional but it was good.”
Many of her classmates were present and were able to pay their respects to Cirella.
“Everyone was happy with it. All of the kids signed the board of it on the inside so it was really nice. (Cirella’s mother) had a smile on her face when she saw it. Everyone in the community pulled together. A great kid, a great family, we couldn’t have asked for anything better,” said Razza.