77ºF

Friends gather to kick off Pulse victim's legacy

Event held on one-year mark of nightclub shooting

ORLANDO, Fla. – Hundreds gathered Sunday night to remember one of the 49 people killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting, and to inaugurate what many hope will be a lasting legacy.

The crowd gathered at the Abbey in downtown Orlando to remember Christopher "Dru" Leinonen.

"The last time all of these people were in the same room was for Dru's funeral," Leinonen's friend, Sara Grossman, said.

Grossman knew Leinonen from college, and she said she is now working to further work he started in high school. She is serving as the communications director for "The Dru Project," a nonprofit organization designed to create a curriculum for gay student alliance groups in high school.

Sunday night's event at the Abbey acted as a kick-off event for the organization and as a memorial.

"Thank you for being part of my son's legacy and to give a moment to reflect on my son's life," Dru's mother, Christine Leinonen, said.

Friends of Leinonen's took turns remembering him -- one year after he was killed at Pulse.

photo

"He taught me to remove my inhibitions, to love unashamedly and to live each day to the fullest," Brandon Wolf said.

Christopher Downing read an entry from Leinonen's journal in which he wrote about what he wanted to do with his life.

"I'm definitely going to be raising kids at some point," Downing read, sobbing.

The Dru Project used the night to present its first scholarships, including a $3,000 check to Finnian Spencer.

Leinonen's mother said the organization may be just beginning, but she believes her son's legacy has the ability to affect change.

photo

"This has to belong to the community," she said. "It's not going to work unless it belongs to the entire community."
For more information on the Dru Project, click here.


About the Author: