The death of Gamaliel “Gama” Toscano was difficult for all of us to process last week. He had been a participant in our program from 6th to 9th grade and was preparing to participate in our RISE mentoring program later this year.
Obviously the family is hit the hardest. Gama has a little brother who is an active participant in our youth program. We are going to do all that we can to support the family.
Our staff were also hit hard. After the initial shock passed, it was clear that the best way to honor Gama and make sense of this tragedy is to just work even harder. Esther Cepeda’s column in today’s Sun Times expresses the same feeling we have, that we must continue to engage in dialogue with as many young people as we can. We arranged for grief counseling for our youth program participants, many of whom were friends with Gama.
Today, the Sun Times ran a letter to the editor from Eddie Anguiano, Youth Program Director. Eddie and his team have been incredible. Our staff Felmar Dean, Cassandra Cortez and Laura Pawson visited the family and extended our offer of help. Thank you to the youth program staff for representing the best of Chicago Commons at this difficult time.
We have received many calls from community members — neighbors, organizations, police and clergy — seeking to help. We will now work to turn that concern into more coordinated, powerful coalition to save lives in the future.