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'He left a mark in this world': Toronto teen who drowned in Lake Ontario remembered

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He was a loving son and brother, a loyal and kind friend, and a dedicated volunteer in Toronto’s east end, say those who knew and loved Mohammad Khasim.

The 14-year-old boy from Thorncliffe Park drowned in Lake Ontario near Ashbridges Bay earlier this week.

The teen had gone to the Woodbine Beach area with his best friend, Ammar Halai, on Sunday evening and somehow got pulled under.

Ammar told CP24.com that he and a man jumped in the frigid water to try to rescue Mohammad, but despite their best efforts, they were both unsuccessful.

His body was located around 9 a.m. the next day.

Mamdoh Khasim, the boy’s father, described him as someone who loved to laugh and smile. He said that he'll be forever remembered as a wonderful and dependable son who deeply loved his parents and three siblings. Mohammad was his second child and the oldest son of the family.

Khasim told went on to say that support and love they’ve received from people in the neighbourhood and beyond has helped give his family strength during this incredibly painful time.

Mohammad Khasim, a 14-year-old boy from Thorncliffe Park, drowned in Lake Ontario near Ashbridges Bay on April 14. (Supplied)

The grieving father was one of the several people who paid tribute to Mohammad on Thursday evening at a moving memorial at The Neighbourhood Organization’s (TNO) Youth Hub at East York Town Centre.

“Mohammad basically changed my life. He gave me the confidence to stand up for myself,” the teen's best friend, Ammar, told CP24.com following the gathering.

“He wasn’t just a friend to me. Although he was a few months younger than me, he was like an older brother to me and to everyone he met. Everybody has a story about how Mohammad impacted their life.”

On Wednesday, at least 1,500 of the teen’s friends, schoolmates, teachers and acquaintances packed the Islamic Society of Toronto mosque on Thorncliffe Park Drive for the Janazah (Muslim funeral service) for Mohammad, who was affectionately nicknamed Hamoodi by his peers.

Another 100 or so youths prayed together on Thursday evening at the memorial for the teen’s sins to be forgiven and for his soul to be received by Allah in Jannah (heaven).

“When I heard of Mohammad’s death, I knew we needed to do something. I knew there would be a lot of heartbreak among the local youth,” said Khimar Morgan, TNO’s leadership development program leader.

Morgan said he last saw the teen a week ago, adding that he'll always remember him for his smile that lit up a room and a great attitude.

The local youth worker said that Mohammad had a "very bright future" and was planning to offer him a junior camp counsellor position this summer as he’d done such a great job volunteering with the organization last year.

Noor Ijaz, a youth ambassador at TNO who served as Mohammad’s supervisor when he helped at Camp “Robin,” said that he was “a lot more than a volunteer.”

“(Hamoodi) was just someone who was always there to support people, no matter what he was going through in his own life,” she said.

“He was just a very genuine and kind soul. He was always happy and he cared about others. He was very dedicated and hard-working.”

Like many, Ijaz said she was both devastated and shocked when she found out that Mohammad had drowned in Lake Ontario.

Mohammad Khasim, a 14-year-old boy from Thorncliffe Park, drowned in Lake Ontario near Ashbridges Bay on April 14. (Supplied)

Late teen was 'admired by so many people' 

The organization’s CEO, Ahmed Hussein, said that the outpouring of love and support for Mohammad has been remarkable.

“I have never seen a young man who was admired by so many people,” he said, adding since Mohammad’s passing many broken hearted and distraught youth from the community have gathered to share memories of their friend and console one another.

“In the 14 years he was around, he made a difference. … In the short period he was alive, he left a mark in this world,” Hussein said, adding TNO will do whatever it can to support the community during this difficult time.

The Toronto District School Board shared the news of the teen’s death with his school community in an April 16 letter. Mohammad was a Grade 9 student at Monarch Park Collegiate, near Coxwell and Hanson avenues.

“(He) will forever be in our hearts and for those of us who had the gift and blessing to know him, we will hold dear the precious and cherished memories of the joy and happiness he brought to others,” Principal Amalia Pallas wrote.

“Mohammed’s teachers remember him as a charismatic and optimistic student who supported his peers and was quick to laugh and smile. His cheerful and good-natured disposition made him well-liked amongst his peers, so many of whom wanted to sit and spend time with him in class. He will be greatly missed by his friends and teachers.”

Some of Mohammad’s friends, with his family’s blessing, have now started collecting funds on his behalf through the Muslim Hands Association to build a well in a developing nation.

“It’s a way to honour Hamoodi and give back,” Ijaz said.

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