Progress from pain: A year after their deaths, Danforth shooting victims are helping others

A year after they were gunned down by a mentally disturbed man with a head full of hate, two young victims of the Danforth shooting are enriching the lives of others.

Julianna Kozis, 10, and Reese Fallon, 18, were killed when gunman Faisal Hussain opened fire on a busy stretch of Toronto’s Danforth Avenue on July 22, 2018.

The spree injured 13 people, but Kozis, Fallon and Hussain were the only fatalities of the shooting that day. Hussain took his own life.

Since their deaths, the girls’ families have ensured their names will live on in service of others.

In the past year, a crowdfunding campaign for the Reese Fallon Legacy Scholarship has raised $81,000. Each year, a portion of that fund will be awarded to a graduate of Malvern Collegiate Institute—Fallon’s former high school—entering a nursing program.

“Reese Fallon was one of the best kids I know,” organizer Julie Steel wrote on the crowdfunding page.

“She was smart and kind and lovely. She was getting ready to start the nursing program at McMaster University when she was killed…She would have been an amazing nurse, and our community has suffered a huge loss with her death.”

Reese Fallon is seen in this undated handout photo provided by a close friend. (The Canadian Press/HO, Noor Samiei)
Reese Fallon is seen in this undated handout photo provided by a close friend. (The Canadian Press/HO, Noor Samiei)

Steel, a family friend whose husband also teaches at the high school, started the scholarship fund the day after Fallon’s death as a way to honour her memory.

In June, Malvern student Jessica Reynolds became the first recipient of the scholarship.

A separate fundraising campaign launched in June has raised $16,000 for a charitable foundation created in memory of Kozis.

According to a news release by the Just Do Kindness Foundation, funds raised from the campaign will go to the Dr. Jay Children’s Grief Centre, which provides support to children, youth and families facing grief, terminal illness and traumatic loss.

“Julianna exuded positivity, beaming a smile at every turn. She was a light, a girl who had so much love in her heart and wanted peace throughout,” the release reads.

“The JDK Foundation hopes to achieve the same with the purpose of making kindness an instinct in the larger dream of making the world a better place.

Policy implications

Meanwhile, families of some of the 13 victims who survived the shooting are advocating for tighter gun restrictions.

Last month, Toronto police chief Mark Saunders updated victims and their families on the outcome of a nearly year-long probe into how the shooting came to happen.

Police still don’t know how Hussain, who had a long history of mental illness and repeatedly harmed himself, got his hands on the gun. But they do know it was sold legally from a Saskatchewan gun shop.

For those still reeling from the shooting last summer, this information is both frustrating and bracing.

"This confirmed our feeling," Ken Price, whose daughter was injured in the shooting, told The Canadian Press.

"It's a risk in society to allow gun ownership to be as pervasive as it is, especially handguns."

In mid-June, federal Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said more work needs to be done on gun violence, but that the Liberals would not take any new measures before the upcoming election.

The Canadian Press reports several families affected by the shooting have told Blair they intend to make gun control an election issue.

With files from The Canadian Press