Family, friends and former colleagues gathered to grieve and honour Alishia Liolli’s memory
A reception was held Tuesday at Ryerson to honour Alishia Liolli, the alumna who died in Hurricane Dorian last month.
Around 30 people gathered in a room at the Ted Rogers School of Management to share their stories and grief.
“I wanted to invite you here today so we could all find a way to celebrate the life of this wonderful young woman,” Liolli’s former professor and organizer of the gathering, Jean Golden, said.
In attendance were Liolli’s parents, brother and extended family from Windsor, Ont., along with former classmates, professors, colleagues from the Bahamas and other students from Ryerson who worked with her this past summer.
“Knowing that her dedication was so pure and so love-filled meant more to our school than anything we could share with you today,” Nicole DeNardin, a former colleague and friend, said.
Liolli found her life’s passion working at Every Child Counts (ECC), a school for students with disabilities in Abaco Islands, Bahamas. In 2013, during her third year of social work at Ryerson, Liolli completed a student placement at ECC. According to Golden, Liolli fell in love with the school and, after her placement was over, she made a plan to graduate, pay off her student loans and move to the Bahamas to work full time at ECC. Her goal was to further disability education there.
Following the hurricane’s destruction, Golden has been working to fundraise and give resources to rebuild ECC and provide support to Liolli’s family. According to Golden, “most of the damage isn’t as bad as we thought; there’s still an opportunity for rebuilding.” The school and its surrounding buildings sustained roof and water damage.
“It may stall a bit for the next couple of years, but we’re going to do it again,” Golden said. “I’m not walking away from this school and I’m not walking away from Alishia’s commitment to that school.”
Cialin Dany, Liolli’s partner and her 17-month-old son, Evans, recently came to Canada after surviving the hurricane. They both attended the reception and were given multiple care packages organized by Golden.
“I always tell people, yes Alishia was in love with me but I was just her sweetheart she’d come home to,” Dany said. “The Bahamas and the ECC, that was her husband. That place took her heart away. I really appreciate every single one of you, because of Alishia and I have a great son, and through her he lives on.”
During the reception, a memory book, created by Ryerson students who worked with Liolli in their placements, was presented to the family and Dany. The book was filled with photographic memories from her time at the ECC in the Bahamas.
“Thank you all for the beautiful memories,” Liolli’s brother Gianni said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my sister… her dreams did come true. She went there, she started a family, and did what she wanted to do and I thank Ryerson for that.”
Liolli’s parents, Josie Coco-McDonagh and John Liolli, presented Golden with two cheque donations. One, for $1,000, is to establish a scholarship at Ryerson in Liolli’s name. The second, for $5,000, will be used to fund resources and rebuild ECC.
More events are expected to take place in the coming weeks to raise money for ECC and the Bahamas.