MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (WCCO) — A Twin Cities family is sharing their story with the hope of raising awareness of domestic violence.

Last July, Natalie Beissel was shot and killed by her boyfriend who then turned the gun on himself. The 32-year-old was at the top of her class in medical school and had dreams of specializing in internal medicine.

Her family is now committed to education and prevention of domestic violence.

Natalie’s brother and sister-in-law, Nick and Shelly Beissel, have spent months planning a bags/corn hole tournament in her honor.

They tossed the bean bags towards the wooden platforms at their Maple Grove home on Saturday.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

That simple lawn game is not what most expect grief to look like but, for the Beissels, it’s become a way to mourn and remember Natalie’s life.

“For us, this is a healing process,” said Shelly Beissel.

“There was nothing more that she would’ve wanted to dothan hang out with some friends and play some yard games and throw some bags. This is something my sister would love,” said Nick Beissel.

On July 31, Nick’s mom called him with unthinkable news after she was unable to reach Natalie for more than a day. Nick says his sister usually talked to his mom on a daily basis as she attended medical school in Tuscon, Arizona. His parents eventually got so worried, they called police.

“She just said they found them both dead and I couldn’t breathe. I could not breathe,” Nick said.

Natalie was at the top of her class entering in her final year of medical school at A.T. Still University.

The Beissels have dozens of pictures capturing Natalie’s light-hearted spirit, dreams of helping others and her strong connection to family.

“She was a very happy person,” said Nick. “I don’t know that I ever saw her down. She was positive, she could turn anything negative to something positive.”

“She loved life and cared for everyone,” Shelly said.

Yet, behind closed doors was an abusive boyfriend.

According to her family, when Natalie tried to leave, Marco Florio shot and killed her and took his own life.

“There was no idea that she was being controlled the way she was,” Nick said.

“We know all these red flags, now, in looking at what happened, but we didn’t before,” Shelly said.

In coping with their loss, Nick and Shelly found purpose with a commitment to raising awareness of domestic violence.

The Bags & Beers For Nat, Love Conquers Violence benefit will incorporate a backyard game as a way to have the conversation and educate.

“It’s happening all the time and we’re not talking about it,” Shelly said.

Natalie devoted her life to helping and healing, her family hopes her legacy will do the same.

“If we can save one person and family from going through what we’ve gone through over this last year that means we’ve succeeded,” Nick said.

That benefit for Natalie will be held Saturday, August 6 at Herkimer’s from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m..

All proceeds will go to Natalie Beissel Scholarship Fund at ATSU and the Domestic Abuse Project.

To learn more, click here or here.

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