Students, staff come together at Malvern Collegiate to honour Reese Fallon
Social workers, therapy dogs join staff, students in the wake of the Danforth shooting
Students, recent graduates and teachers filed into Malvern Collegiate Institute Tuesday to remember Reese Fallon — the 18-year-old former student who was killed in the Danforth Avenue shooting on Sunday.
They were joined by social workers and therapy dogs to console them and help them deal with their grief.
"Everyone's coming together to put out flowers for her," said Rachel Kelly, who has also just graduated from Malvern.
"Everyone's been really supportive."
Fallon, who had just graduated from the east end high school, was attending a birthday party with fellow Malvern students when she was shot. A 10-year-old girl was also killed and 13 other people were injured.
The gunman, whom the Special Investigations Unit identified on Monday as 29-year-old Faisal Hussain, also died of a gunshot wound.
"It's just affecting everyone, which is really sad," said Peri Bergevin, who graduated from Malvern a year ago and had the words "STOP GUN VIOLENCE" written in permanent marker down her thigh.
She said Fallon "was like a light to her friends" and had "just a positive impact on the school and in everyone's life, really."
Many others at the gathering agreed.
"She was a bright light in the classroom," said Mark Steel, a chemistry teacher who taught Fallon.
"Just hard working, sharing, caring, helping others," he said.
"Steel and his wife Julie have started a GoFundMe page to create a scholarship in Fallon's name.
"She was just an amazing human being," Steel added.
"It's going to be a long road ahead because Reese was such a bright light in this community," said Anthony Parise, an English teacher who also had Fallon in his classes.
"It's affected me and other staff members profoundly, and the entire community," said Parise.
"I'm here because I felt I had to come to support whatever students or staff came into the building, and also to honour her family and to honour her memory."
St. John Ambulance, a first aid organization that runs a therapy dog program, brought 15 dogs and their handlers to the school.
"It's very nice to be able to actually do something, rather than just saying, 'how awful,'" said Kate Kent, a handler who brought her her dog Max to the school.
"He's a wonderful therapy dog, and hopefully he can bring some comfort."
"There's going to have to be an incredible amount of healing that they're going to have to go through — the community, the family" said Perise. "The school is open today, and that shows you how proactive the board is in ensuring that the community has help."
Five social workers were at the school on Tuesday, all trained to talk to kids and teenagers, according to Toronto District School Board spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz.
"There was a need for everybody to come together, to have one place to come together," said Schwartz-Maltz.
"Kids can hold each other, teachers can hold each other, and that's what you see inside."