#TorontoTheGood: How residents are supporting victims, each other in wake of van attack

From individual acts of kindness to online fundraising campaigns to public memorials, Torontonians are mobilizing to grieve together and support each other after the van attack that killed 10 and injured 14 more on Monday.

'We should show the world that Toronto is a city that will not be cowed,' Mayor John Tory says

A woman writes a note at a memorial on Yonge Street the day after a driver drove a rented van down sidewalks Monday afternoon, injuring and killing pedestrians. (Galit Rodan/Canadian Press)

From individual acts of kindness to online fundraising campaigns to public memorials, Torontonians are mobilizing to grieve together and support each other after the van attack that killed 10 and injured 14 more on Monday.

"I encourage the people of Toronto to come together in support of those affected by this tragedy and those working to keep us safe," said Mayor John Tory in a statement. "We should show the world that Toronto is a city that will not be cowed, will not be afraid, and will not waver in the values we hold dear."

The hashtags #TorontoStrong and #TorontoTheGood trended on social media in the immediate aftermath of the attack and have continued to garner thousands of posts bearing positive messages.

Social media users have also reported encountering random acts of kindness and a general sense of togetherness from fellow residents.

Some residents of the GTA did their part by donating blood, said Deanna Jones of Canadian Blood Services (CBS).

"Some donors have shared with staff that their act of donation today is a response to yesterday's tragedy," Jones said, adding that CBS would have the exact numbers Wednesday.

One local business close to the attack was offering free flowers to passersby who wanted to place them at the memorials in the area. 

"We felt so sorry for them," said Katherine Liu, co-owner of Secret Garden Floral and Gift Boutique on Yonge Street just north of Finch. "We need to do something, and I didn't know what I could do."

So, Liu set up a table of free flowers with a sign saying "Our heartfelt sympathy."

Pop-up memorial

Right around the corner from the flower shop, area resident Konstantin Goulich set up a makeshift memorial that has become the centre for public expressions of condolence.

He walked out of his apartment Monday to scenes of carnage.

"I was shocked and I didn't know what to do at first," Goulich told CBC News.

Goulich felt that he couldn't sit around and do nothing. So he went to the store to buy posters, markers and other supplies and placed them outside for passersby to share their feelings.

A memorial for the victims of the Toronto van attack was set up near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue. (Linda Ward/CBC)

"We need to express ourselves," Goulich said. "We need a place to at least say something from our community."

Local residents gathered throughout Tuesday to lay flowers, light candles and sign the posters with messages. Hundreds of signatures in different languages bearing messages of hope now adorn the posters.

Goulich has also helped to organize one of many vigils at the memorial site.

Victims' fund growing by the hour

Individuals and groups have also started a number of fundraising campaigns to raise money for the victims and others affected by the van attack.

 A GoFundMe campaign started by Canada Zakat, a Muslim community organization, had raised more than $150,000 by Wednesday afternoon. The funds will be used for funerals for the victims and other expenses for those affected by the attack

"We are deeply moved by what happened," said Junaid Sohail, project manager for the group. "We started this to show solidarity with the community at large and to help support the victims and their families."

Junaid Sohail of Canada Zakat. His organization started a GoFundMe campaign that has raised over $150,000 the victims of Monday's van attack in Toronto. (Submitted by Canada Zakat)

Previously, Canada Zakat collected and distributed over $800,000 for the victims of a shooting at a Quebec mosque in January 2017.

"Difficult times help to bring people together and this is exactly what we see happening," said Sohail.

Sohail says his organization is coordinating with Mayor John Tory's office and is in talks with some of the other fundraising pages about consolidating their efforts.

Tory announced Tuesday at a news conference that the city is partnering with the Toronto Foundation and Victim Services Toronto to create the #TorontoStrong Fund to make sure donations are collected in one spot and are properly distributed to the affected families.

Soon after the announcement, CN announced a $50,000 donation. 

Additionally, Wounded Warriors Canada set up a fund for emergency personnel on Tuesday.

"It is unimaginable to think of what the first responders confronted and it's imperative that we are there for them in their time of need," reads a description on the fundraising website.

All the proceeds of this campaign will go toward mental health services for first responders.

Green ribbon campaign

Adonis Ng, a Grade 12 student at St. Francis Xavier Secondary School in Mississauga, found out about the van attack from an online message from his father. 

"I was really angry, to be honest," said Ng. "But then I realized that being angry doesn't really contribute to anything and that's when I decided to do something  positive."

Ng started a campaign encouraging his fellow students to wear green ribbons on their backpacks and clothes to symbolize pedestrian safety. He created a Facebook post asking people to take pictures and share them on social media to "send messages of love and concern to the families of victims."

Adonis Ng, second from left, stands with friends wearing green ribbons. Ng started a campaign to encourage classmates to wear green ribbons in honour of the victims of the Monday's van attack in North York. (Submitted by Jesse Sun)

"I think it's crucial that we as a community take a uniform step to show the support to those who need it in a way that is really easy and accessible," said Ng.

While the response has been limited to friends and family, he says he has received a lot of encouragement and he plans to keep it going for the next few weeks.

"Grief is definitely not a short thing," said Ng. 

How you can help

Contact Toronto Police Services

Toronto police have appealed to the public for any information that may aid their investigation. Call the police tip line at 416-808-8750. Anonymous tips can also be left by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

If you have any photographs or video from the scene of the incident, you can upload it to this online portal created by police.