More than 100 people – high school students and community members – came out to EDSS Oct. 23 to listen to music and celebrate the life of former student Dani Tillich at a coffeehouse held in her memory.
Dani, 16, was struck by a truck after stepping off a Grand River Transit bus in St. Jacobs July 8. She was taken by helicopter to Hamilton General Hospital with brain damage, where she was hospitalized for a week before succumbing to her injuries July 16.
Brittany Reitzel, one of Dani’s closest friends, was instrumental in the planning of the event, gathering raffle prizes and making hemp bracelets to be sold.
“We were basically best friends right away (since their meeting in Grade 8). As soon as I walked into the room, she was smiling at me and we have been pretty inseparable up until now.” She also noted that although the fundraisers and assemblies have helped her to deal with the situation, she still finds it tough to come to terms with what happened.
“How do you handle something like this? We will never know how to handle it right.”
More than 700 people turned up at her funeral to celebrate her short, but happy life and the support for her family continues with events such as this one and a memorial assembly in Dani’s honour on Sept. 23, what would have been the girl’s 17th birthday.
“I think the assembly helped the kids come to grips with it. I think it reopened the hurting a little bit for some of them, but it seemed to help a lot of them to come together like that.” said Dani’s mother, Kelley Tillich.
Dani and her family discussed organ donation before the accident occurred, and through the Trillium Gift of Life Network, she was able to donate her organs, saving four lives and one person’s eyesight in the process. This action is one which friends and family members say they would expect from Dani: her warm and caring personality was known by many.
“She was quite a girl. It might not say much coming from her mum, but you hear the same thing from everybody. She was feisty. She was always smiling and she always had something good to say,” said Tillich, her statements echoed by Reitzel.
“She was always happy and just always so excited. She was like a little ray of sunshine – just adorable.”
Tillich says that the outpouring of support that has been given to her and her family from the school has made her feel incredibly blessed.
“It’s been emotional and I am overwhelmed by the support. It is just phenomenal. It just keeps setting in how much people care.”