Published On: Wed, Mar 28th, 2018

“She Was More Than a Statistic” says Stoneman Douglas Victim’s Family

By: Bryanna Basilio

As Saturday’s March for Our Lives protests occurred throughout the United States, Boca Raton residents organized their own March at Mizner Park.

The Sherlock family at March For Our Lives rally in Boca Raton

One Boca Raton family in attendance at Boca’s March for Our Lives can still feel the sting of the Stoneman Douglas tragedy. The Sherlock family lost their beloved niece and cousin Gina Montalto, 14, in last month’s Parkland shooting.

“Gina was one of the kindest, caring, and sweetest people you will probably ever meet. She put others first before herself,” said Shawn Sherlock, whose niece Gina Montalto was among the 17 victims in the Stoneman Douglas high school massacre. “This past weekend was extremely emotional for all of us.”

Sherlock was with her husband and their two boys, marching in Boca with signs and photos of Gina.

Before Gina Rose Montalto’s face was plastered in a collage of victims seen around the world, loved ones remember her as a 14-year-old student whose schoolwork was extremely important to her. She loved to cook and was described by her Aunt as an excellent cook. She was funny and had a very good fashion sense. She loved traveling with her parents. She was an artist and was an illustrator for a local family magazine her uncle and aunt own. She was very well-loved by all her friends and was a member of the Color Guard at Stoneman Douglas, a team which she loved and won the state championship with last year.

Sherlock and Gina’s mother Jennifer have been sisters-in-law for almost 20 years and she has known Gina since she was born. “Our families are extremely close. The cousins are extremely close.”

Gina Montalto

The two families vacationed in the past where Gina and her 12-year-old brother, enjoyed spending time with their cousins, 5-year-old Shane, and 13-year-old Aiden. Gina loved to babysit her little cousin Shane.

The journey to healing has been an exhausting one, says Sherlock.

“I still don’t know how we are all getting through this. It still seems very surreal.

“As a family we agree it feels like one continual bad day since February 14. It feels like it still didn’t happen. Yet as everyday passes the reality that it did in fact happen, becomes clear. Living with the new norm that she’s not here, has been our new reality. It’s so tough.”

But one of the greatest pains for Gina’s relatives has been her notoriety of tragedy. A tragedy that her niece will forever be linked to.

“I am heartbroken as her aunt. It breaks my heart that the world has to know of my niece as a statistic,” added Sherlock. “I wish the world would know about my niece as the person she was and the wonderful, loving, sister and daughter that she was. I wish that people would know her for that, instead of being a statistic of a tragic event like this.”

The two families spending St. Patrick’s Day together

Sherlock made a vow to keep talking about her niece so people can learn more about her as a person and not just a statistic.

Parkland united together following the tragedy, and the Montaltos are appreciative of all the love and support the community has provided to the Stoneman Douglas families.

“It’s been overwhelming to know how much love there has been around my in-laws and we’ve been extremely appreciative,” said Sherlock.

The March for Our Lives movement has been pivotal and appropriate for some Stoneman Douglas victims’ families, including the Sherlocks.

Mrs. Sherlock with niece Gina

“As a family we all knew there needed to be change and seeing the support and rally of the march this weekend, we know that it was a needed step in the right direction because status quo before this was not acceptable. Even if it’s a small step in the right direction, we’ll take it.”

To honor Gina’s memory, the Montaltos have set up the Gina Montalto Foundation, a foundation which strives to give students scholarships, as well as make charitable donations to causes Gina supported. The GoFundMe page has almost half a million dollars.

“Anybody that knows Gina would say, schooling and her education, and her family were huge to her.

Continuing Gina’s legacy will be a goal of the Sherlocks. Shawn and her husband joined the Moms Demand Action group, where her husband serves as spokesperson for the South Palm Beach County group. The group will meet April 3, 7pm-8pm at B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton.

“Moving forward, we want to become more knowledgeable on next steps and what’s needed for gun reform and school safety. That’s what my husband and I are sticking to.”

About the Author

- Bryanna Basilio is a staff writer, reporter, and social media strategist for The Boca Raton Tribune. She attends Palm Beach State College majoring in International Relations.

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