Hamilton schools offer counseling after child killed in hit and run

Posted at 9:38 AM, Jul 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-10 11:39:34-04

HAMILTON – A Bitterroot community is preparing to honor 9-year-old Robert Leonardi of Hamilton who was killed by a hit and run driver on Sunday.

The school district is also coming together to offer support and a memorial for the child be will held this Thursday.

Flowers, letters and pictures line the fence outside of Daly Elementary School in Hamilton as a memorial to Leonardi.

Hamilton School District Superintendent Tom Korst says he doesn’t have enough good things to say about the boy.

“Knowing Robert, it would be impossible, even with my own kid to accurately characterize someone like that in three or four words. I think if anything, he was just a great little kid,” Korts said.

The school district is offering its resources and counselors to community members who may be struggling.

Hamilton Memorial Robert Leonardi
Flowers, letters and pictures line the fence outside of Daly Elementary School in Hamilton as a memorial to Robert Leonardi. (MTN News photo)

Hamilton High School Counselor Angela Dondero — who visited with kids on Monday — says Leonardi was the kind of boy who was everybody’s friend.

“The kids there had nothing but positive things to say. He was the kid that would run out on the playground if someone got hurt,” Dondero told MTN News.

“Or if someone was getting picked on he would be the first one to run over and get a teacher and make sure that kid was okay,” she added.

Dondero says the family is well known around town, and that the community is doing their best to provide support.

Hamilton Middle School Counselor Kaylie Beierle knew Leonardi when he was in the first grade.

“I would just say that grief can be something that can be really difficult and it affects all people. Even if you didn’t know this child personally, or your children didn’t, you can still be affected by grief,” Beierle said. “And it’s very important to reach out.”

Korst says losing a child is one of the hardest things a community can go through, and the schools are doing what they can to help.

Tom Korst
Hamilton School District Superintendent Tom Korst (MTN News photo)

“Well, this is going to take time. This is going to take months and probably years. So, we’re looking forward to the school year for events and making sure the school district is aware of how we can provide support. We’re going to continue to talk about this for some time.”

The Hamilton School District has a list of counselors and grief resources on its website, and people are encouraged to call the district’s phone number for 24/7 grief counseling.

The memorial service will be held on Thursday, July 11 at 11 a.m. in the Hamilton Middle School gym. Friends, teachers, classmates and community members are invited to attend.

Beierle and Dondero will be available for counseling at the service and will also be on call throughout the summer.