Tribute to Gemma
St. Rita loses an Angel….and
Heaven gets a Gemma hug

In our last Silent Advocate issue, we highlighted the life of one of our students, Gemma.  It is with aching hearts that we now mourn the tragic loss of her precious life when she accidently drowned and passed away on March 17th.  While we deeply miss her and grieve that we can’t see her smile, we rejoice that she now speaks unhindered to Jesus as she gives him one of her famous Gemma hugs. 
She was just beginning the Loft Program and even at the very young age of 3, Gemma was overcoming many obstacles.  Diagnosed with Apraxia, Gemma came to St. Rita School with a 10 word vocabulary.  Immediately, she began to soar with a growing vocabulary of 50 words, speaking and signing she was communicating and embracing life.  And soon, for the first time, Gemma’s parents were able to hear, their little girl say “I love you.” 
Gemma could light up a room with her smile.  Her joy and enthusiasm was so contagious as she actively discovered new things in this world.  She loved Minnie Mouse and pretending to cook on her kitchen play set, but nothing compared to her stuffed Winnie the Pooh.  She carried Winnie the Pooh everywhere she went and he experienced countless ‘Gemma hugs.’ 
Gemma will always be known by her hugs.  Everyone got hugs – family, school mates, and teachers.  Her arms were always ready to embrace anyone in a tight, loving hug that would melt the world’s troubles away. 
On the playground is really were Gemma’s creativity shined.  Gemma had no end of delight and wonder stored up and her captivating spirit that drew her classmates into a whirlwind of three year old laughter. 
To honor Gemma our new almost complete playground will be named after her.  Despite the difficult challenges many of our students face, they will all experience the joy of childhood on the playground while wrapped in a ‘Gemma hug.’ 
Please help us create Gemma’s legacy and help finish the playground that will give our kids the chance to just be kids.  While our students have the tremendous task to overcome communication and learning obstacles, the carefree play of a child is a priceless gift that cannot be overlooked.  Your gift will create a memorial entrance for Gemma and new, safe playground equipment that children, especially those with Apraxia like Gemma, can use to explore and learn in a world that was once closed to them. 
With your help we can reach out to families to unite them with communication—families like Gemma’s whose mother would otherwise never hear her baby say “I love you.” 
One light does not go out when it is used to light thousands more. It is our hope and dream that 50 years from now students and staff will still know what a special light that Gemma was to all of us. To help ensure that her memory is never forgotten please donate now

Click here to read the last Silent Advocate Article "You helped find Gemma's voice" - visit page 5
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