By: Chloe Leshner

cleshner@abc6.com

@ChloeLeshner

WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) -- More than 500 people gathered Sunday morning to honor the life of Gianna Cirella. The 16-year-old died suddenly last year from sepsis and now her family and friends are raising money and awareness for the high risk infection.

Before the race even began there was a very special moment, retiring Gianna's soccer jersey. The number 12 will never be worn by another Toll Gate girls soccer player. The jersey retired for Gianna Cirella.

 

"It's pretty amazing, breath taking and a little bit overwhelming for me. But that's what Gianna was to that school. That's what Gianna was to her friends and the team," says Tara Cirella, Gianna's mom.

The junior at Toll Gate died suddenly from sepsis last November. Hundreds honoring her legacy 6 months later, raising money for sepsis research.

"We didn't know anything about it, we didn't know sepsis and we want to change that," says Cirella.

Her teammates leading the way as nearly 500 people ran the race, everyone thinking about their goalie.

"The spirit that she had, the smile that she always had on her face, the energy that she brought to the team and to the school," says Lonna Razza, the girls soccer coach.

Three miles later, the team crossed the finish line together as Gianna would.

"Gianna will start to do her run and within a lap or two, she's done wearing her sneakers for some reason and she throws them off and finishes the last mile or so in her socks," says Razza.

A tribute to her fun loving spirit.

"She was everything I wanted my child to be. And I don't say that because shes gone, I say that because everyday I would say I'm doing something right," says Cirella.

A bittersweet Mother's Day for Tara, her first without her older daughter.

"I can't think of what else I would want to do today. It got us all out here, it got me up early looking for a focus and it does help to have all of these people here," she says.

Gianna's jersey will hang in the school gym for many years to come.

The foundation also gives scholarships to local soccer players.

(C) WLNE/ABC 6 2018