Gina Rose Montalto found friends wherever she went.
“Gina was a special girl who melted every heart with her infectious smile that lit up a room,” her parents wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for a college scholarship fund created in their daughter’s memory. “She was instant friends with everyone she met. She had a great sense of humor, and always made people laugh.”
On Wednesday last week the smiley teenager, described by her friends and family as a talented dancer, illustrator and student, became one of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. She was 14.
Aidan Minoff, a 14-year-old freshman at Stoneman Douglas, said his parents and the Montaltos were close friends when both mothers were pregnant. He and Gina were childhood friends, he said. They had sleepovers at each other’s houses, attended each other’s birthday parties and had group dinners with both families.
He said Gina was a “go with the flow” kind of person. She was outgoing, athletic and always wanted to try new things.
“She was probably the nicest person you'd ever meet,” Aidan said.
At home, she could be found cooking with her dad and grandmother, especially during the holidays, according to the GoFundMe post.
Her parents said in the post their daughter loved to read, especially the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games and Wonder Woman, played soccer and flag football, and even illustrated for a local magazine.
“She loved fashion and enjoyed shopping, spa days with Mom and NY Jets games with Dad,” they wrote.
Of the many, many activities Gina threw herself into with enthusiasm, she was known best for her love of Color Guard. She was on the Stoneman Douglas team that was scheduled to perform at a regional event in Tampa the weekend after the shooting.
One of her Color Guard instructors from middle school, Manuel Miranda, posted about her death Wednesday night.
“My heart is broken into pieces. I will forever remember you, my sweet angel,” Miranda said. Miranda taught Montalto last year at Westglades Middle School in Broward. “She was the sweetest soul ever. She was kind, caring, always smiling and wanting to help.”
Gina’s call to service moved her to join a Girl Scout troop, become an active member of her church and volunteer — especially with little kids.
School was an important part of her life, and she always got high marks, her parents said in the post. The family created the page, which has raised more than $200,000, so they can help other students fulfill their educational goals.
“High grades and school involvement were a huge part of Gina's life,” they said. “To honor her memory we are setting up a scholarship fund to help students with the cost of secondary education. With your donations, we hope to help give the gift of higher education to other children.”