At the church where Natalie Giorgi assisted during Masses, community members gathered Thursday night to remember the life of the Carmichael teen who died Saturday from a severe allergic reaction to peanut butter.
The Rev. Michael Kiernan, who led the rosary service at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Carmichael, recalled Giorgi as "a delightful young girl" and a "sweet altar server who helped at Mass."
"I used to tell her, 'Make sure I do this right,' and she would say, 'You'd better, I'll help you,' " Kiernan said.
Even before the rosary started, the church's parking lot was overflowing with cars, and its pews were packed with friends, family and schoolmates of the 13-year-old.
Giorgi died early Saturday after suffering a severe allergic reaction to a Rice Krispies treat she bit into at Camp Sacramento along Highway 50 in the Eldorado National Forest.
Her death has been used as a rallying cry for more education about children's food allergies. One of the region's largest local school districts decided to change its food service policy in response to the death. As of Thursday, elementary schools in Elk Grove Unified School District will no longer serve food with peanut products, district officials announced.
Tim McGuire, Giorgi's uncle, said before the rosary that the family is "very pleased to see the last several days that there has been some momentum growing."
The death is "still a shock" for the community, said Philip Takeishi, Giorgi's physical education and math teacher. He remembered a young girl who was "always cheerful" and always "had the best attitude."
Takeishi said Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School would be bringing in grief counselors next week, so teachers could better help students cope with the death. "It's something that we will have to address," he said. "The one nice thing about being a Catholic school is that it's connected to our faith."
Kiernan said he was heartened by the number of people who were getting involved and helping the Giorgi family, as demonstrated by the large showing at the service.
"It's almost like a little oasis," Kiernan said. "It's one of these warm places where people really pull together."
Call The Bee's Kurt Chirbas, (916) 321-1030.