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Outpouring of support for Franklin Regional comes from near, far

| Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Murrysville Star Loren and Krystal Kase, both 1999 graduates of FRHS, brought their son Ryland, 5, to sign the giant banner. As part of the healing process, community members and Franklin Regional alums lined up in the Village of Murrysville Parking lot this past weekend to sign the banner proudly proclaiming, 'We Are FR', showing their support for their school and community.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Trafford Star Penn Trafford students show their support for neighboring Franklin Regional by declaring last Friday blue and gold day and signing a large banner, 'Stay Strong', to be sent to FRHS when they return to school this week.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Murrysville Star Gateway School District shows their support for neighboring Franklin Regional by hanging a banner at the entrance to the school campus on Mossside Boulevard.

The idea of “FR Strong” has taken on a new meaning in the wake of last week's tragedy at Franklin Regional High School.

Since April 9, wishes of support have flowed into Franklin Regional offices from across the community and the country.

“It's humbling to see how many districts have shown support and sent us things,” Assistant Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac said. “It's quite inspirational.”

Even the word “community” has a broader meaning now, as schools from as far as Ohio and students from across the country have reached out to the district. Reljac said officials received a letter Monday from a student who attends Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., where one student was fatally shot in December. The letter offered perspective and support to Franklin Regional students.

“It means the world to us to know that we are not only part of the FR family, but also a bigger family and to know that so many people have it in their heart to think of us,” Reljac said. “It is humbling and heartwarming that there are lots of people close by and across the country who are there for us.”

Community support is evident throughout the streets of the communities as signs and blue-and-gold ribbons adorn yards and businesses. In the hallways at the high school hang banners from districts and FR alumni, reminding students that they are not alone.

At Penn-Trafford High School, students set aside their usual rivalry with Franklin Regional to rally around the stabbing victims by wearing blue and gold on April 11. During lunch, students signed a banner printed by Matt Mastroianni, the owner of Mastro Signs and Printing in Trafford, that they sent over to Franklin Regional.

On Monday, P-T students were taking orders for a FR-themed T-shirt as a fundraiser.

At Gateway High School, officials hung a banner showing support along its fence facing Route 48 in Monroeville.

Other districts, including Fox Chapel, Hampton and Norwin collected student signatures on homemade banners that have been sent to the district, Reljac said.

The Franklin Regional Class of 1983, now scattered across the country, joined together to print its own support banner. It's a permanent gift from the class to offer a strong message of support to the current school community, said alumnus Bill Rehkopf of Murrysville.

“Everybody wants to be able to help in a situation like this,” Rehkopf said.

“It's a tangible plan for us after seeing a place that seemed innocent to us when we were going there being dragged into the national spotlight for something like this.”

Rehkopf also helped organize Tuesday's “Send Them Back with Love” rally at Murrysville Community Park.

The event invited students, alumni and community members to join together on the eve of the return to a “normal” schedule.

Community support is invaluable to the district.

“I think that we've experienced something that none of us want anyone to experience,” Reljac said.

“It is necessary for us to support each other, but when you feel support and caring from other places and other school districts, businesses and the community, it really helps you to get through the difficult times to help our students and staff members.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627.

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