On June 12, Orlando lost UCF alumnus Christopher "Drew" Leinonen to the Pulse shooting, and tonight his mother, Christine Leinonen, will take to the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to speak on gun control.

"On Wednesday night, speakers will discuss how Hillary Clinton has the experience and steadiness to bring Americans together to get real results for our families," the Democractic Convention website states.

She will be accompanied by two other speakers, Brandon Wolf and Jose Arraigada, both of whom are survivors of the Pulse shooting.

After Leinonen's speech, speaker Erica Smegielski will "advocate for commonsense gun violence prevention measures."

Described by friends as the "life of the party," Christopher Leinonen was a 32-year-old Detroit native and LGBTQ+ activist, going so far as to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at his high school, which earned him the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award Honoree in 2002. He was a licensed mental health counselor in two states and received his bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology from UCF.

“Drew just had this ability to really just be able to listen to people,” said Shawn Chaudhry, a close friend of Leinonen’s for 12 years. “He never wagged a finger at anybody, so to speak. He never judged anyone. That’s one of the biggest things I could say about him; he was one of the least judgmental people I’ve ever met.”

Click here to watch the DNC live. Christine Leinonen's speech is scheduled to start at 8 p.m., according to the DNC schedule.


Alissa Smith is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @thealissasmith or email her at

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