Gabe’s Legacy Lives On

Dr_Gabe

More than $10 500 have been raised for  Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in honour of Gabriel Debono, a JCU medicine student from Ingham who was killed in a hit-and-run on September 1.

By Joel Preston

The hit-and-run death of JCU medicine student Gabriel Debono on September 1 sent shockwaves through the Townsville and Ingham communities.

His passing was followed by a tidal wave of positive messages on Facebook from family and friends who still can’t believe their friend, classmate and mentor was gone.

Their messages all have a similar theme – Gabriel was someone they’ll never forget.

FULL OF LIFE: Gabriel Debono was loved by many

George Roberts resident Alex Leotta described his best mate Gabriel as “loveable”.

“I can’t think of one person who would speak a bad word about Gabe,” he said.

“It’s not like one of those things where someone passes away tragically and there are a few people who don’t like him that change their tone and say ‘Oh no, he was a really good person’.

“Gabe was just flat out awesome.”

Mr Leotta said there was an air of disbelief surrounding Gabriel’s sudden passing.

“I couldn’t believe it – even being in the hospital room, it doesn’t even register that it’s happening,” he said.

“I still don’t think it has even registered now.”

Mr Leotta said the response from students at George Roberts, Gabriel’s former college, was “disbelief, followed by devastation”.

Following Gabriel’s death, Mr Leotta started a fundraising initiative to assist the Debono family and raise money for the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) – a charity Gabriel hoped to work with after becoming a qualified doctor.

“I think that’s what Gabe really wanted to get involved in because that’s what his life was really. He just wanted to be a doctor and help people out.”

Gabriel spent a year in Peru during 2010 after he completed high school. Mr Leotta said that while his mate was over there he saw the highs and lows of humanity.

“He would have seen the extremely rich and the extremely poor and he lived with a couple of poorer families while he was over there,” he said.

“He really wanted to help people who were a little bit more disadvantaged in the world.”

Mr Leotta said he’d like to open more donation boxes to give others the opportunity to contribute.

“Hopefully in the coming days, we can get more donation boxes up around the university,” he said.

“I’m going to leave one at George Roberts indefinitely.”

Mr Leotta said it was important for everyone to remember to take care of their mates in town.

A page on the Médecins Sans Frontières website entitled Gabriel Debono – a tribute to his spirit of hope and generosity was organised by Barbara Debono to collect donations on behalf of her son for the charity.

The page has already surpassed its $5000 target with over $10 000 raised in Gabriel’s name.

INSPIRED GENEROSITY: Donators have already doubled Barbara Debono’s target of $5000

Mrs Debono posted on the fundraising page, “We are hoping that, even though Gabe never got to work with Médecins Sans Frontières as he had hoped, our contributions will be a testament to his intentions.”

To donate in Gabriel’s name click here.

Stories from donors continue to trickle onto the web page with comments on how Gabriel influenced their lives.

“Gabe you achieved so much and touched so many lives, you have made your family proud and have been an inspiration to others,” the Tierney family said.

“A wonderful person whose life was tragically cut short, our thoughts and prayers are with your family,” the Pennisi family said.

Police have released an image of a vehicle driven by a person who may have witnessed the fatal hit and run.

The latest police update can be viewed here.

Anyone with any information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit crime stoppers.com.au.

For more information on the Médecins Sans Frontières charity click here.