Gabriel’s Light, a fund established with the mission to strengthen protocols in schools regarding device monitoring with alerts for school provided technology, supporting suicide education, and offering healing for those impacted by suicide while advocating kindness through youth programs has been launched in Chicago. The organization was founded by Carol and Brendan Deely, who lost their son, Gabriel, 12, to death by suicide in November of 2018.
Gabriel was adopted from Ethiopia as a baby in 2006, joining three biological older sisters, and became big brother to Isaiah when he was adopted in 2009. The family was shocked and devastated when their seemingly happy, outgoing, kind boy so abruptly passed, and set out to try to discover why.
The night Gabriel died, personal items including his electronic devices were handed over to Chicago Police Detectives for investigation. Like many of his peers in junior high, Gabriel had become increasingly pre-occupied with video games, YouTube and group texts with classmates. His parents actively limited and monitored his online presence on his phone and home devices. The digital forensics examination of home devices found no search history to help answer why Gabriel died. His family planned Gabriel’s funeral under the belief that he must have been trying a prank, accidentally harming himself while goofing around.
That naivete was crushed when content from the electronic device assigned to him at school, one that never left the school building, was finally made available to the Deely family an anxious three weeks later. The family received two school device internet search history reports. Unlike the CPD reports of benign searches on Gabriel’s home devices, the family was horrified to read the report from his school device indicating Gabe had searched suicide and bullying numerous times the last eleven school days he was alive. Immediately the reality was clear - there was no follow through on device monitoring nor alert protocols despite the school’s IT contract signed by Gabe’s parents and internet monitoring protocols established by the Archdiocese of Chicago “Protecting God’s Children” initiative.
Due to this tragic incident, the Deely family has created Gabriel’s Light to advocate for the implementation of 1:1 device monitoring with alerts in schools. Technology in schools has given rise to numerous programs to create parameters for safe student use of the web and notification when these parameters are breached. Applications like Bark Technologies (free for schools) allows schools and parents to work in partnership to encourage use of the web within age-appropriate guidelines.
A small notebook found in Gabriel’s room was returned to the Deely family by the Chicago Police Department following his death. That notebook contained one entry and it was from the day he died. Forensic psychologists have interpreted that Gabe felt isolated and alone at school; diminished, not good enough, hopeless. There was evidence of him feeling bullied. Gabriel’s Light will serve as a gateway for parents in what to look for in signs that your child is being bullied; how to advise your children in this situation; and also lecture/film series with partner experts to discuss these issues with educators, students and parents.
After suffering first-hand from the lack of smart device supervision in their own child’s school, the founders of Gabriel’s Light hope to spread awareness to schools across the country to set protocols in place so future related incidences could be avoided. “Losing a child to suicide is a parent’s worst nightmare,” said Gabriel’s mother, Carol Deely. “Knowing that our seemingly happy, outgoing son, who shared a bright smile with everyone around him, was a target of bullying at school is absolutely heartbreaking,” continued Deely. “The only thing more heartbreaking is our belief that his suicide could have been prevented. If the school had proper technology & keyword alerts in place – an intervention could have taken place. We want to make sure another family doesn’t suffer the same loss of a child to suicide again.”
“We hope to get our messaging out to every school around the country, so that awareness training and technology monitoring is put into place before it’s too late for another family,” said Brendan Deely, Gabriel’s father. “Our slogan at Gabriel’s Light is that kindness does matter, we’re promoting pro-kindness & partnering with organizations that help youth recognize the unknown burden or pain that someone else may be carrying.”
Carol Deely states, ““As parents, we know the importance of modeling courage for our four surviving children. It isn’t easy sharing our experience of losing Gabe to suicide. But talking about it with others is the right thing to do. Amidst our storm, we want to shine a light on helping keep all children safe at school and everywhere. One of our hopes for our surviving children is that when they are challenged in life, they have the strength and courage to do what’s right, even if it‘s hard. Through Gabriel’s Light, already we have seen people making a difference learning from our experience - they are asking questions, reaching out to others and acting courageously. In just the few short weeks since launch, Gabriel’s Light has been thanked for saving a life. Making a difference for someone else, the impact of Gabriel’s Light is growing rapidly. “
For more information or to learn how to get involved, please visit www.gabrielslight.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a donation to the Gabriel’s Light fund, click here. Follow Gabriel’s Light on Facebook.
We encourage all those that write about suicide to follow recommendations established by reportingonsuicide.org
About Gabriel’s Light
Founded in 2019 and based in Chicago, Illinois, Gabriel’s Light is a tax-deductible fund that calls for change in schools with limited technology supervision and alerts. Donations received by the fund will help raise awareness for much-needed protocols, as well as cyber-bullying, suicide education and postvention efforts. To learn more about the story that ignited the launch of Gabriel’s Light, visit www.gabrielslight.org