Event raises funds and awareness after student suicide

Family and friends of an 11-year-old Champaign County girl who committed suicide earlier this month held an event Sunday to raise funds for a headstone and scholarship fund and bring awareness to bullying issues.

The Triad Middle School student was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at her home on Oct. 19. It was the second suicide in the district in nearly five years.

"I was honestly shocked, and I immediately called home, because I said, you know, 'Please tell me what I'm hearing isn't true,' and that's when you confirm that it was," said Ashley Cozad, a friend of the girl's family who helped to organize Sunday's event at North Lewisburg Methodist Church.

The death has caused local leaders to review procedures and the handling of bullying in the district. Some friends and family members of the girl said she was bullied at the middle school, even as she was battling cancer and receiving chemotherapy.

Community members have responded by airing concerns about the district's approach to bullying at a recent school board meeting and asking other residents to stay vigilant and be supportive of every child.

"It's devastating, and my daughter is 10 years old, she's in fifth grade, (the girl) was in sixth," Cozad said. "So as a mom it's horrible."

The girl's father attended Sunday's event.

"It's amazing how everybody does pull together in the community," he said. "I mean it's phenomenal."