Nine-year-old Kathleen Edward, of Trenton, died Wednesday night after a long bout with pneumonia, which is especially tough for Huntington’s patients to beat.
“Kathleen far exceeded our expectations of survival. She’s the strongest little girl I ever met in my entire life, and she didn’t quit fighting. Now she gets to go into the arms of her mother, Laura,” said family friend Michelle Yerigian.
Kathleen was diagnosed with the disease when she was about 3 years old. She was just 6 years old when her mother died of Huntington’s disease at the age of 24.
Kathleen attracted attention from around the world when they learned she was the subject of online taunting by her neighbor, Jennifer Petkov. Petkov published a photo of the terminally ill schoolgirl on Facebook above a set of skull and crossed bones. Petkov also allegedly attached a coffin to her truck, labeled it ”Death Machine” and drove it down the street honking the horn.
The girl’s plight sparked cards and letters of support from around the world, and Yerigian’s job was to field the truckloads of mail that came weekly for the girl.
“This little girl touched a lot of people’s lives and not just in Michigan, but across the world. She has friends from Australia, Indonesia, Pakistan, people all over the world have reached out to this little girl and the world is now a sadder place without her in it. But, I think she taught us a very strong lesson in that faith, hope and love can just do amazing things,” said Yerigian.
The family is currently making funeral plans. Meantime, Yerigian said Petkov is due in court next week.
The previous article about the actual bullying is below. (Trigger Warning, bullying, death. Even reading this I can't believe a couple of adults thought this was "funny.")
(WWJ Photo/Ron Dewey)
A crowd of friends gathered in Ann Arbor in support of a 7-year old Trenton girl with Huntington’s disease who’s been the focus of cruel and relentless cyberbullying by a neighbor.
Toys, balloons ,cakes, a magician and clowns packed this party Thursday for Kathleen Edward, at Tree Town Toys.
Store owner Hans Masing said he wanted to over the child a shopping spree, and was overwhelmed by the community’s response.
“My thoughts were, I have a toy store. I love kids. This girl has been bullied and hurt and she’s got a real struggle in front of her with Huntington’s disease, so let’s see if with what I’ve got here I an brighten her life a little bit.
“I put a challenge out to the online commnity. I thought I would raise about $500, maybe $1,000 . I put $100 in myself. Last I checked, we were at over $17,000 that’s been raised.”
Along with the shopping spree for Edward, proceeds will be donated in toys to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.
Massing told WWJ’s Ron Dewey he’s heard from people in over 70 countries who are wanting to help.
Kathleen’s father, Robert Edward, was floored.
“It’s insane, how many people have come together. Really, I mean, ridiculous. It just shows that not everybody is as heartless as those people are,” he said.
In attendance at Thursday’s event, Chrissy Kraft Cannon held a sign she and her daughter made that reads “Love Prevails.”
“Let people know that, you know, love is stronger than hate. And, I wanted to teach my daughter about gratitude and compassion,” she said.
Kathleen’s mother died last year of Huntington’s Disease.
Kathleen has it too. But the disease is not her only nemesis.
Kathleen is also the victim of a horrifying cyberbullying attack and the perpetrator is a 33-year-old neighbor, Jennifer Petkov.
Petkov admitted that she had posted ghoulish art work of the child on her Facebook page. The picture showed the Kathleen’s face – eyes closed and tongue lolling out – with a pair of crossed bones beneath it.
Petkov also admitted to posting a Photoshopped image of Kathleen’s mother cradled by the Grim Reaper.
When asked why she did it, Petkov sounded a lot like a high school mean girl. “Personal satisfaction,” she told local TV station WJBK. “Because it rubs their a** raw.”
Police said they visited the two homes on several occasions, as the families had been feuding for years.
More recently, neighbors in Trenton, told the local news station that Petkov and her husband decorated their pickup to look like a hearse, strapped a homemade coffin on top, and drove it back and forth in front of the home Kathleen shares with her father and step mother. Petkov said it was just a Halloween prank.
The Edward family now has a restraining order against the Petkovs, and the neighborhood has banded together in support of the little girl. A Facebook group, “We Love You Kathleen,” has almost 4,000 members.
Petkov and her husband have made a public apology and dismantled the coffin on top of the “hearse.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, Huntington’s is “a progressive, degenerative disease that causes certain nerve cells in your brain to waste away.” The result is uncontrolled movements, mental disturbances, and death. Symptoms usually develop in middle age. It is rare for children to show sings of the genetic disorder, but it can progress faster if they do.
The only comforting thing about this is knowing how much support this poor girl had from friends and family. I hope Petkov's spend an eternity stepping on leggos and may all their books be missing the last five pages. Also, any other tag suggestions aside from "bullying"?