Bal­loons for Jas­min

Fa­ther of Jas­min Hanif moved by sup­port as fam­ily grieves

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MARK MC­NEIL AND NICOLE O’REILLY nor­eilly@thes­pec.com 905-526-3199 | @Ni­coleatTheSpec mm­c­neil@thes­pec.com 905-526-4687 | @Markatthes­pec

Stu­dents from Mary Hop­kins Ele­men­tary School cel­e­brated the short life of a class­mate who was struck and killed by a ve­hi­cle while she was try­ing to cross the road in front of her fam­ily’s home Tues­day evening. Her fa­ther, Sha­keel Hanif, was moved by the dis­play of love for his 10-year-old daugh­ter. “Jas­min was an an­gel. She loved ev­ery­body.” Read more about Thurs­day evening’s bal­loon re­lease on

The dis­traught fa­ther of Jas­min Hanif slowly walked onto the asphalt play­ground of Mary Hop­kins Ele­men­tary School in Wa­ter­down Thurs­day evening and could not be­lieve his eyes.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple had packed the area for a bal­loon re­lease cer­e­mony to re­mem­ber the life of 10year-old Jas­min, who was struck and killed by a van two days be­fore.

“I can’t be­lieve it,” Sha­keel Hanif said tear­fully. “They loved my daugh­ter and they are sad to­day.

“Jas­min was an an­gel. She loved ev­ery­body. Look what she has done in just 10 years of her life. She has brought all these peo­ple to­gether. I am so proud to be her fa­ther.”

Since the ac­ci­dent at 6:30 p.m. Tues­day — in front of the fam­ily home on Evans Road, three kilo­me­tres away from the school — Hanif said he didn’t think he could con­tinue liv­ing so close to where his daugh­ter died.

“Be­lieve me, I was think­ing about mov­ing af­ter what hap­pened to my daugh­ter in front of my house.

“Well, we’re not go­ing any­where. I love the peo­ple of Wa­ter­down.”

Jas­min’s Grade 4 teacher at Mary Hop­kins, Caro­line Soldaat, told the crowd “Jas­min will re­main in our hearts for­ever.”

Af­ter a minute’s si­lence, and a count­down, a mass of bal­loons sailed up­ward over the top of the school.

Af­ter­ward, Soldaat said, “If you could de­scribe her in one word, it would be ‘vi­brant.’”

She had a larger-than-life per­son­al­ity. She came to school ev­ery day ex­cited. She was in­volved in ev­ery­thing. She wanted to be a helper; she was al­ways ask­ing, ‘What can I do next?’”

Each day, Soldaat said, Jas­min would show up five to 10 min­utes be­fore school started to sharpen pen­cils and put chairs un­der each desk. “She was also a chat­ter­box. She would love to tell you sto­ries. She would just chat­ter about ev­ery­thing that was hap­pen­ing in her life, es­pe­cially about her brother. She loved her brother. She was one of those kids that 30 years from now you will re­mem­ber. She was un­for­get­table.”

Marie MacEach­ern, a mother who has a son in Grade 4 at the school, said the bal­loon re­lease was the idea of a group of pupils who were un­able to at­tend Jas­min’s fu­neral ear­lier Thurs­day. Jas­min’s ser­vice was held at ISNA Canada, in Mis­sis­sauga, fol­lowed by a burial in Burling­ton.

“Within 24 hours, the bal­loon re­lease idea went from five kids to this,” MacEach­ern said.

A GoFundMe ac­count called Jas­min Hanif’s Me­mo­rial had raised more $9,100 as of Thurs­day night.

The ac­count says it is “in sup­port of the griev­ing fam­ily for the sweet Jas­min Hanif, to help with fu­neral costs and al­low the fam­ily to grieve with­out strain, and to cre­ate a me­mo­rial for their beau­ti­ful daugh­ter.”

A Face­book group called “Sup­port For Jas­min’s Fam­ily & Friends” has been cre­ated where fam­i­lies are shar­ing mem­o­ries, call­ing the young girl kind and strong, and of­fer­ing sup­port to the fam­ily.

In ad­di­tion, a “Wa­ter­down Mom’s Group” also wants to help the driver, a 26-year-old man whose name is be­ing with­held by po­lice. He has not been charged.

“It was a com­plete ac­ci­dent, he was not at fault, and we want to show him sup­port through this dif­fi­cult time as well,” Amy Towar­nicki said in a Face­book post.

“We know this is a sen­si­tive is­sue and he may want to re­main anony­mous, but even if we can just let him know that our com­mu­nity is think­ing about him as well.”

The nar­row, two-lane road where the ac­ci­dent hap­pened has no side­walks and is a main thor­ough­fare con­nect­ing Dun­das Street and Park­side Drive. It’s a fre­quent traf­fic night­mare for neigh­bours and on Tues­day night the road was par­tic­u­larly busy with driv­ers avoid­ing a clo­sure on High­way 403.

GARY YOKOYAMA, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

GOFUNDME

Above: Jas­min’s class­mates re­lase bal­loons into the sky Thurs­day at Mary Hop­kins Ele­men­tary School in Wa­ter­down, part of a me­mo­rial or­ga­nized to re­mem­ber the Grade 4 stu­dent.

Left: Jas­min in an un­dated photo from the GoFundMe page set up on be­half of her fam­ily.

MARK MC­NEIL, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Mes­sages of love and sup­port writ­ten in chalk on the play­ground.

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