Young Soccer Star Shone
By Maureen O’Donnell Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org October 26, 2011 9:42PM
Photo for Obit of Gina Giancola, champion soccer player who attended Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois
Updated: January 23, 2012 2:54AM
Gina Giancola, a powerhouse soccer player from Hersey High in Arlington Heights, was a jaw-dropping joy to watch when she hurled herself through the air to do her signature flip-throw.
Beautiful, outgoing and strong (her soccer nicknames were “Brick House” and “Man Abs”), Gina shook up the sophomore social order. She made a point of including the geeks in her smiles and her gatherings, her friends and family said.
It didn’t matter if it was somebody else’s uncool little sister, or the kid with Asperger’s. Gina didn’t just stick up for the underdog — she invited them along.
“She was beautiful. When you’re attractive, it opens up a lot of doors. But on the inside, she could understand how that other kid would feel,” said her father, Mark, who remembered when Gina, just 4, taped the leg on a dead spider to try and make it whole again.
Despite her bubbly exterior, Gina, 15, struggled with depression. She sought and received help at school and at a local hospital, according to her family.
She had two doting big sisters, Domenica and Giovanna, and loving parents who watched over her closely. But she lost her battle with depression Saturday, when she took her life.
Her father wants to get a message to other teens to reach out if they need help.
“She was a great kid,” he said. “She never drank. We never worried about boys or staying out late. She was just a great kid who suffered from depression.”
Gina grew up in Arlington Heights. She liked chocolate chip pancakes, fishing, and teaching tricks to her Goldendoodles, Ginger and Lucy.
Gina had a special way with animals, even the family’s pet rat. “She trained him to go to the bathroom in the corner of the enclosure he was in,” her dad said.
She did gymnastics and cross-country, and she got good grades — A’s and B’s.
But her soccer skills made her a standout. She played with the Sockers FC Chicago club. Her team won state championships.
The traditional warning signs of suicidal behavior weren’t apparent, her dad said.
“She’d be out of bed every day, get up, get dressed, look nice, and go to school and pretend she was as happy on the outside as she was sad on the inside,” her dad said. “There was nothing that you would think — indifference; or saying [certain] things, or giving things away.”
After her death, her family checked her phone. She had still been talking about the future. “ ‘I’m going to bring a cake for your birthday on Monday,’ ” she had texted a friend.
Her father wants other teenagers to hear him.
“Talk. Go to your counselor. There’s a lot of people, all they want to do is help you. You’ve just got to ask,” he said. “What’s the point of carrying this burden by yourself?”
Gina is also survived by her mother, Julianne; her grandmother, LaVerne Giancola; her grandfather, Andrew Repak, and aunts, uncles and cousins.
Visitation is 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Rago Bros. Norridge Chapel, 7751 W. Irving Park Rd. A funeral mass is 11 a.m. Friday at St. Eugene Church, 7958 W. Foster.