By Jill Fox
In honor of Gina Rose Montalto, one of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, family friends organized the fourth annual beach clean-up to keep her legacy alive.
Jennifer Montalto, the mother of Gina, said the community effort started organically, just like their annual Easter Egg Hunt, when several of her friends organized it to help keep Gina’s light shining.
Known for her love of the beach, turtles, the color blue, and protecting the environment, Gina also enjoyed volunteering and giving back. Organizer Amber Hersh said the foundation focuses on things Gina would have loved doing.
“Gina was a wonderful artist, so this year we decided to include an art project for the younger kids,” she said. “It’s sand art, so it’s beach-themed.”
Despite Covid, Hersh said they had a massive turnout in 2021. “There were over 100 children volunteers from so many different schools – it was really amazing.” This year, they have even more local organizations excited and willing to volunteer.
The event takes place Sunday, February 13, at 10 a.m. Volunteers are encouraged to wear their Gina shirts and meet on the sidewalk adjacent to Deerfield Beach fire station 75. Everyone should bring their own masks, gloves, and bags to collect trash. Shirts will be available for purchase at the beach.
High school students can earn service hours for their participation. Students must bring volunteer paperwork with a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Hersh said the students feel so accomplished and proud of themselves when they return with their bags full of trash.
“Then, they can enjoy the beach with their families, making memories with those important to them. And that’s what it’s really all about,” said Hersh.
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