The fundraising event was held at The Mansion in Main Street in Voorhees. Celeste E. Whittaker/Staff Photographer


VOORHEES – Tina Grimmie began to cry Saturday afternoon when she saw the painting.

The gift, from artist Bella Paleologos of Jackson, is an uncanny likeness of Grimmie's late daughter.

Christina Grimmie’s bright eyes stand out in the painting, as she stares with her head slightly cocked to the side. The South Jersey singer, who became famous through YouTube videos and her competition on NBC's "The Voice," is wearing a black shirt and her arms appear crossed.

The portrait was beautiful, said her mother, whose tears of joy were also tinged with sadness.

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Tina and Bud Grimmie and their son, Marcus, were in town to help kick off the Christina Grimmie Foundation's East Coast event, held at The Mansion on Main Street two days before what would’ve been Grimmie’s 24th birthday.

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The room was filled with friends, family and Christina Grimmie fans. Some traveled from out-of state, while others came from the singer's hometown of Marlton.

The foundation was started nearly a year ago with the purpose of carrying on the legacy of Grimmie, who was 22 when a gunman fatally shot her on June 10, 2016, at a meet-and-greet with fans after she performed a concert in Orlando, Fla.

“We didn’t want the shooting to be the end of the story,” Bud Grimmie said.

In an interview with the Courier-Post before the program began, he said the family leaned on their faith when the tragedy nearly knocked them completely over.

“Our faith in God is who we are, and held us by a string when this happened,” he said. “Because of the people and the support that we’ve gotten, it moved us to do this. It’s moved forward to pay it forward like we were supported. We just want to help other people, because in that darkness, there was that spark of light."

Bud Grimmie described some of the support they received, including a donation from his daughter's celebrity coach on "The Voice."

"Adam Levine paid for the funeral. Then there was the GoFundMe. Then there was the guy that made the casket, donated it. That’s what sparked us to do what we’re doing. Her person is what’s doing it right now.”

Christina Grimmie was a rising star, seemingly just on the verge of making it big. The singer-songwriter was a YouTube sensation with millions of followers who listened faithfully to her covers of Top 40 hits. She also finished third on Season 6 of "The Voice" and had many projects in the works.

The foundation’s mission is to provide financial and emotional support to individuals and families who “suffer from the devastating effects of gun violence,” and support families facing breast cancer diagnosis. Tina Grimmie is a breast cancer survivor.

“Thank you for everybody that came,” she said. “I want you to enjoy yourself. Laugh when you want to laugh, and cry when you want to cry. It’s OK.”

There were tears Saturday at the fundraiser, which drew more than 300 people, but there was laughter as well.

And there were standing ovations for the Grimmie family and for several guests who are survivors of gun violence incidents. Among them: Lisa Fine, a survivor of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting massacre in Las Vegas five months ago; and Thomas Holgate, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., where a gunman killed 17 people last month.

“I think it’s a really cool thing to be here, especially as it relates to me with gun violence and all that,” Holgate said. “I would like to make this fundraiser, this foundation, get it on the map now. I’m a survivor. The spotlight is on us right now. I was really shattered by the school shooting. It means a lot for me to be here. It’s something that’s familiar with me now. We’re not alone. Like the Vegas shooting survivors, we’re all together, and Christina Grimmie’s family — we’re all coming together.”

Fine, who helped create a nonprofit called Route 91 Strong to support families impacted by that shooting, said she was in the first row at the Las Vegas event on Oct. 1 when a gunman fired on concert-goers from a nearby hotel, killing 58 victims in the largest mass shooting in modern American history. 

“We spent some time last night on my iPhone listening to the most beautiful angel sing, and that was Christina Grimmie,” said Fine. “That voice and the heart of an angel inspired me and hundreds of thousands of people. Christina’s legacy will live on forever. To see all of you here supporting such an incredible cause like the Christina Grimmie Foundation gives me true hope for humanity.”

Marcus Grimmie said he lost his best friend when his sister died. He was with her that night and even tackled the gunman, who shot and killed himself. 

He talked about how people often said the first year is the toughest when you lose someone, getting through the first birthdays and other major holidays. But for him, year two without his sister has been even tougher.


Mourners arrived Friday afternoon in a steady stream to pay respects to Christina Grimmie, a rising pop star from South Jersey who was gunned down a week ago while signing autographs after a concert in Orlando, Fla. Courier-Post

“This is a nice little homecoming for us,” Marcus said. “It’s being received amazing. I just want everyone to know the work that we’re doing. It’s fun to talk about all the gifts, the performances, and who Christina was, but this isn’t about that anymore. This is about the families we’re going to help. The big mantra we’ve been talking about is stepping up. We need people to step up.”

Two huge screens on either side of the room showed photos of Christina Grimmie over the years. Those same screens showed a video of Grimmie singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with childhood friend Pete Innaurato, who emceed the event.

A DJ played Grimmie's music during the fundraiser, which also included a silent auction and a raffle.

Bud Grimmie said the idea for the Voorhees event started as the family planned to return to the East Coast to go to Olive Garden – his late daughter’s favorite restaurant — to celebrate Christina’s birthday, along with the birthday of his sister.

He said they thought about the big launch event the foundation had in Hollywood last year and decided “we should really have something with the people we know and the people who supported us. ... Look around, it’s amazing.”

“I cannot express all the thanks and support that we’ve gotten, even before when Christina was still here,” Bud Grimmie said. “You were voting for her on 'The Voice.' ... It was just a support system. And then 21 months ago today, God took Christina."

“What I’d like to say to everybody that I spoke to, it’s OK to laugh and have fun. It’s OK to cry and break down. Talk about Christina. It’s not an elephant in the room. She is amazingly better right now. I’ve said many times I’m going to cup her face in my hands one day.”

For more information on the foundation, visit

Celeste E. Whittaker: @cp_CWhittaker; 856-486-2437;

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