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Amanda Todd celebrated in 'the birthday party she wanted'
Snowflakes flickered on the walls of the Red Robinson theatre as friends, family and strangers, moved by the story of a Port Coquitlam teen pushed to the brink by bullies, bid her farewell on Sunday.
Affectionately nicknamed "Princess Snowflake" by her mom, Amanda Todd left a message to the world in a video she posted on YouTube weeks before she took her own life in October at the age of 15.
The heartbreaking video, that's since gone viral, documented years of torment she endured as the target of bullies online and at school.
She was a snowflake because every snowflake is different and unique.
“I have lost my daughter, a bright, strong, unique young woman,” Carol Todd, Amanda's mother, said as she choked back tears while addressing the packed theatre.
“Although she is gone from our physical world, she has left behind a larger-than-life message that has sparked the world and has made it open its eyes, its ears and its heart.”
The "Celebration of Life" featured singer Cole Armour, who performed a song called “You," inspired by classmates who have been bullied.
"You're amazing, you're the one and only you, don't change you ... " sang 14-year-old Armour.
Nov. 27 would have been Amanda's 16th birthday – the service, complete with cupcakes, was the big birthday party she would have wanted.
The teen, who grew up in Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge, loved singing, could command the attention of a room full of people and often wore a memorable, mischievous grin on her face.
Her favourite teacher at Coquitlam's Alternate Basic Education program (CABE) remembered Amanda as a girl with a big heart.
"I could see that some days were hard for Amanda," said Leah Pells.
"No matter what was happening to her, she cared for all the students in the class, asking other students if they were OK and worrying when they didn't show up for class. She felt things so deeply, which was a blessing and a curse for her."
Amanda wanted to leave a mark on the world and was determined to help others learn from her experience.
"I hope one day I can write a song about bullying so when kids are alone, staring out of the window crying, they can play my song and know that it's not your fault and things will get better," Amanda wrote.
Vancouver singer-songwriter Elise Estrada closed the emotional celebration with her song Wonder Woman, dedicated to Amanda. Proceeds from the sale of the single will be donated to anti-bullying charities.
Amanda's story has already inspired others. A letter from an 11-year-old girl, read during the service by a teacher, thanked Amanda for sharing her struggles with the world.
"You are the one who made me brave and I'm glad you did," wrote the girl. "You showed me strength, courage, bravery and confidence, of being excited about getting to school and just pushing all that fear away for a while."
Amanda's best friends, cheer-leading coach, teachers and neighbours promised to be ambassadors of love by spreading her anti-bullying message to the world.
Her Port Coquitlam neighbours hung up their Christmas lights early, turning them on Sunday after the celebration.
Bryan Durand, the Todds' next door neighbour, said the houses in Douglas Terrace are also adorned with snowflakes.
Amanda's father Norm recounted memories of a family vacation and how Amanda dragged him on the “biggest, baddest, scariest” ride during a trip to an amusement park. Life was always an adventure for her.
“I’ve lost a big part of my heart that will never mend and always belong to Amanda,” he said. “Amanda has a new journey now that will be brighter and stronger and she will always be with us in so many other ways.”
Amanda's family has created two funds with the Vancouver Foundation to support anti-bullying education, help young people struggling with mental health issues and support programs that help people with learning disabilities.
• To donate to Amanda Todd's legacy, visit vancouverfoundation.ca.