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Posted on Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 1:26 p.m.

Dying little girl cyber-bullied by neighbors gets toy shopping spree of a lifetime in Ann Arbor

By Juliana Keeping


Kathleen Edward, 7, Trenton, plays with a toy train inside Tree Town Toys in Ann Arbor Thursday morning.

Lon Horwedel |

Kathleen Edward held a new friend’s hand and looked at the bright shelves of toys surrounding her this morning — and anything she wanted was hers. It was a 7-year-old’s dream.

A week ago, her family had been living a nightmare. Kathleen, of Trenton, has juvenile Huntington’s disease, a rare and aggressive version of the hereditary, degenerative brain disease that killed her mother in 2009 and her grandfather before that.

But that’s not what had the family down.

A feud between a neighborhood couple and the girl's grandmother, Rebecca Rose, led to cyber-bullying targeted at Kathleen and her deceased mother, Laura. The neighbors posted a doctored photo of Kathleen’s face with skull-and-cross-bones imagery on Facebook last week.

The feud started two years ago over a birthday party, Rose said, shaking her head.

“I’ve been living this nightmare for two years. A week ago, I thought no one cared,” she said.

Rose said Trenton police made her family feel like a nuisance for calling so many times with various complaints about harassment from the neighbors.

The neighbor couple, Jennifer and Scott Petkov, also posted a photo of Laura in the arms of the grim reaper on Facebook. Then they allegedly parked a pickup truck painted with death messages and a coffin in back outside Rose's home in Trenton.


Kathleen Edward, 7, of Trenton, plays with a marble game at Tree Town Toys.

Lon Horwedel |

According to Rose, they have not been charged with a crime. A Trenton Police Department official was not immediately available for comment this morning.

Since the neighbors' actions, the story has generated attention around the world. In comments and online forums, again and again, people asked: “How could they?”

Ann Arbor toy store owners Hans and Tricia Masing of Tree Town Toys wondered that, too. Hearing of the incident made him cry, Hans admitted. They began to construct a fundraising campaign and then a day of a lifetime for Kathleen and her family. The idea took off.

“This exceeds our wildest expectations,” Hans Masing said.

“Anything you want is yours,” Simone, the toy store owners' 8-year-old daughter, told Kathleen Thursday morning shortly after she walked through the door.

Simone took the little girl’s hand, and together they walked toward the shelves and shelves of toys.

What did Kathleen think of it?

Her answer: more big smiles and a shy giggle. She put on a toy fireman's hat. Wide-eyed, she made her way around the store, stopping to play with toys along the way.

Before her foray at Tree Town Toys, a white stretch Hummer picked up the girl, her friends and family from Trenton; hot pink letters on its windows read "Team Kathleen." 

The ride pulled into the shopping center at 9:30 a.m., escorted by two police motorcycles from the Ann Arbor Police Department. Two big Ann Arbor Fire Department trucks and a number of firefighters were outside the store to welcome her, too.

Her father, Robert, carried her from the limo to the crowd of dozens who showed up to cheer her on, holding signs of support and throwing rose petals. Kathleen’s entourage — among them children who also had juvenile Huntington’s disease and their parents — wore white T-shirts with messages of support and a picture of smiling Kathleen. 

Simone Masing handed Kathleen a dozen red roses, and a clown gave her a balloon wand, which she carried with her into the store, down a red carpet lined with velvet ropes.

Inside were a magician, a white, three-tiered cake adorned with pink butterflies, and those toys. The first she picked out was a game worth $11.99 called “Froggy Toss.”

“It means the world to us that people came together to do something nice for her,” Robert Edward said.

Scott Petkov apologized with cameras rolling Wednesday from the street in Trenton; a face-to-face apology from the Petkovs might be impossible without violating personal protection orders Rose has against the couple.

Rose described Kathleen as a shy and fun loving.

“If she saw an ant on the sidewalk, she’d step over it,” she said.

The girl is just like her mother, she added.

“Laura never complained,” Rose said. “It was never ‘Why me?’”

Local magician Gordon Schott, also a “mild-mannered commercial real estate broker,” prepared a show for the many children who came to support Kathleen.

“This is what the real magic is,” he said, looking around. “You can take a disturbing situation and turn it into something like this, that’s so much bigger.”

Dave Stickles, president of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America - Michigan Chapter, said the attention the incident has brought to the disease is bringing in thousands of research dollars to his organization.

“It’s gone viral. It’s gone all around the world,” he said of Kathleen’s story.

His group is getting donations from as far away as New Zealand, about $5,000 so far.

Stickles’ best friend died from the disease.

Huntington’s disease devastates generations of families and hits adults in the prime of their lives, Stickles said. Since the onset of symptoms also coincides with adults’ prime earning potential, Huntington’s disease often leaves families economically devastated as well. While the juvenile version is rare, the prognosis is worse.

“Doctors say she should already be gone,” Rose said of the little girl’s medical condition.

The progressively destructive disorder devastates those afflicted with it, destroying their ability to think, speak and walk. There is no effective treatment or cure. Adults typically live 10 to 25 years after the onset of symptoms before succumbing to pneumonia, heart failure or other complications. Children live only five to 10 years after the onset of symptoms, according to Jessica Shinkonis of Lincoln Park, whose daughter, Cailey, 11, has juvenile Huntington’s.

Cailey and her mother came along with Kathleen’s party in the store, and Cailey and other children with Huntington's got the toys they wanted, too.

“Out of such a horrible thing, something so positive has happened,” Jessica Shinkonis said. “A nation has come together to show one little girl so much love.”

Donations have reached $17,000 for the fund set up by Tree Town Toys for Kathleen and others. What’s left after the spree will be put on a gift card and delivered to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. The Masings are donating any profits to the family.

Juliana Keeping is a health and environment reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter


Carel Allen

Wed, Oct 20, 2010 : 5:45 a.m.

Hans & Trish - thank you for making this world a better place!


Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 11:06 a.m.

This is one of the most heart-warming stories I have ever heard. I don't need any toys for anyone right now, but I will be sure to go to Tree Town Toys when I do! I am so glad that Kathleen had such a wonderful day!

Hans Masing

Sat, Oct 16, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

@Rob MI - Jennifer Petkov was arrested for assault with a dangerous weapon yesterday - she tried to hit one of her neighbors with her car.

Rob MI

Sat, Oct 16, 2010 : 8:57 a.m.

Those who believe in karma may be interested in knowing that the Detroit News has reported that Mr. Petkov has been fired because of this controversy.


Sat, Oct 16, 2010 : 4:10 a.m.

All I can say is I am so glad to read that someone finally decided to do right by this little girl! It will no doubt also be a treasured memory that will be cherished long after there are only memories left for her family and friends and that is an equally valid and justified reason for having made all of her dreams come true. I would hate to think that those who love this precious little girl would remember the last years of her fight with Huntington's as a time when as her Grandmother stated, that "no one cared" - this hopefully provided an immense sense of peace knowing that there are those who care greatly. I also realize that there are always two sides to every story. But seriously, two years that this harassment, bullying, torment, threatening and whatever else you want to call it went on... Shame on the Trenton Police Department for offering no assistance! Now, I am not finding fault with you for perhaps not forwarding criminal complaints to a DA's office - I do not know the legal specifics of the law and where something goes from simple nuisance to crime, but common sense would state that anyone seeking out an individual/individuals because of a dispute originating out of all things, a birthday party two years earlier, targeting an innocent child (who clearly and obviously could not be provoking these interactions) with a fatal genetic disease that killed her grandfather and mother and crossing the line from cyber-'attacks' to REAL WORLD instances (i.e. parking a truck w/ coffin and death messages outside the home) HAS committed a crime! But, I am not a police officer. This is why I say shame on you Trenton Police Dept. I am sure you have some wonderful police officers who serve your department but when you failed this family and this little girl who looked to you for help you failed the entire community. You may not be able to solve everyone's problems or fix everyone's hurts and pain but that is not your job - your job is ultimately when it comes right down to it to do conflict resolution and hopefuly prevent escalation of problems into further crimes... do you not see that this two-year neighbor harassment and bullying could have very easily risen and been ratcheted up over that time until you had a serious or violent crime on your hands? Would you prefer looking back and saying 'what if'? You fortunately didn't have to look back on a horrible crime because of a lack of intervention on your part. I also say to you, Trenton Police Dept., that in your failure to serve this little girl and her Grandmother the trust the community has in you is slowly eroded not just in this case but consider that your response to one community member/'case' effects how others view you and perceive that they will be received by their police dept as well. You do not interact independently with members of the community; what you do with one member and how you treat and help (or don't help) one member will affect - both negatively and positively - those other members. There may well be a community member now who decides to NOT report a crime or seek the help of the Trenton Police Dept because this is how they too feel that they will be treated. That is a tragedy. The exact opposite treatment of this little girl and family by the Ann Arbor Police officers who escorted her to the toy store and the firemen who greeted her (w/ a truck!) brought a smile to my face and served to show a marked contrast to the experience of the Trenton Police Dept. While I know that these men (& women) did not do this to 'one-up' a fellow law enforcement agency but these are the very kind of acts that allow for the community to build trust in their public servants. There will be no doubt detractors regarding the police and firefighters' presence, I say that if they are ever in need and in a most vulnerable point in their lives, they will remember the kindness and gentle compassion shown and they will seek out THOSE Police officers and Firefighters because there will be an inherent trust and sense that they will be shown an understanding that each and everyone of us needs most especially at times of crisis, loss, etc. Kudos to the AAPD and AAFD who were there to make this a day that Kathleen will not soon forget and will be living on with her family and those citizens of Ann Arbor who have been so touched by this story. It has obviously struck a chord with many the world over and fortunately much good seems to be coming out of what is such a tragic story. Kathleen's little life will no doubt be an inspiration and positively affect many, many others far beyond the reach that her neighbors ever imagined with their attempts to torment her and that has to be the best form of revenge if there ever was any! PS- Way to go Tree Town Toys for stepping up to the plate and making a difference! It seems too often we wait for 'someone else' to do 'something' and it ends up that none of us does anything... You're an example for all of us that we each can be that change we want to see. I hope that the community supports you - proving that good things happen to good people, what goes around comes around and all of the others.

Ann English

Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 6:51 p.m.

Kathleen certainly didn't act shy in the videos, not self-conscious at all surrounded by so many spectators to her right, left, in front and in back of her. I didn't know that more progress in the past 15 years regarding Huntington's disease has not been made; before this story was published, I only knew about a man living out west whose children were grown, dying of Huntington's disease, and he was buried near Dodge City, Kansas. From the information in this article, this man most likely did not get Huntington's disease from either of his parents, or he would have died much earlier in life. So it affects one's ability to think, speak, and walk? I hear, "thought, word, and deed," in that statement. I'd first heard about Kathleen's story this morning on the radio, while behind the wheel.


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 2:41 p.m.

Hans, I think I can easily speak for everyone who has ever met you, and even those that haven't, we are honored and proud to have someone like you, representing us.


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 12:42 p.m.

This was a real tear jerker. You got me Very nice write up. Kudos to all who participated to make this a very special day for all the kids.


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 12:25 p.m.

@Laura... I have cried MANY times reading this story. I have a feeling a lot of tears are being shed for this family and this adorable little girl. I'm sending a card today, not much, but something to bring a smile to that beautiful face. A note on the athiest thing.. I'm agnostic as it gets... and I really think people need to realize.. it's just good people doing good things, being real humans... although I have to admit that I could be wrong about the existence of satan...maybe there is a devil, and her name is Jennifer Petkov...


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 12:04 p.m.

I've cried so many times and for so many reasons upon hearing this story. First I cried over the bullying, then everyday after that, I have cried over the generosity of strangers. This story has taken on a life of it's own and gone not only all across the U.S. but international. The power of love, it's awe inspiring! What an amazing, amazing show of generosity the Masing's have provided for Kathleen and other families suffering with JHD. God Bless you all. Laura Black

Kim Kachadoorian

Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 11:33 a.m.

There are few things in life than can match the smile and laughter of a child. Thank you for making this special little girl and her family smile and laugh again.

Sue Talbert

Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 10:36 a.m.

Hans, you and Trish are ROCK STARS and make me proud to be a Michigander and moreover, an Ann Arborite. I'm so very delighted at how you've turned this awful story around and given this family memories that will last forever. Thank you for doing this - we'll stop in when we're back home next summer and say it in person. :)


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 9:58 a.m.

What a wonderful day for Kathleen. I am so heartened by the outpouring of good. Humans are good and bad. It is so wonderful when the good can make such a triumphant, overpowering life-changing event in the life of someone - and it touches and betters us all. Is it a little odd that all the atheists who have posted have cats?? I am very much an atheist, but when confronted by those thanking God in these posts, I try hard not to dissuade them in their happiness. It is rarely a good time to argue theology. Rather, bring up the notion that God helps those that help themselves... (I also have an 80 lb dog... surely there are atheist dogs out there too?)


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 11:05 p.m.

@Ypsicat: As an athiest cat too, I feel God had less to do with this little girls wonderful day than two wonderful, outstanding business owners with a daughter near the same age who simply could not let this heartbreaking story happen without opening their hearts. You, Hans and Tricia are amazing, giving caring people. I do believe in Karma and hope the offending family recieves no more publicity regarding the situation. I am surprised to hear people refer to them as adults behaving badly, sure maybe age-wise they are adults but judged by their behavior they are anything but. I hope they don't have and are not around children they can influence in their negative way. Shame!

Mark A.

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 10:07 p.m.

I couldn't make it to be part of the flash crowd this morning, but I'm glad this happened, and in my town. Also, Lon Horwedel did a great job on the photos for this story.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 9:24 p.m.

I have to agree with Graypatch. This is a heartwarming story, but god may or may not have anything to do with it. As an atheist cat, I have to say that good people who care about what is right are not necessarily Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or belong to any other religous group.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 9:23 p.m.

Many many thanks to Hans and Tricia Masing, owners of Tree Town Toys. It does not take government to do this, the private sector at work because they care and give back to their community!


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 7:57 p.m.

Hans, you are super awesome. Who would have thought putting out a rally cry on the internetz would result in such a noble reaction? I think I speak for the whole community when I say thank you for being awesome, and owning a toy store is totally cool. pfrance, not trying to be a jerk but the community he first shared the original story with and inflamed is majority atheist. While perhaps God may have been smiling on this endeavor, good people are the ones who pursued and achieved. You do humanity proud Hans.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 7:52 p.m.

Im Becky Rose's sister, Kathleen is my great niece...i live in Washington State and could not be there to see this, so i thank you from the bottom of my heart for making it possible for family members that couldnt attend...altho i cried my eyes out at all the love and support for kathleen....My sister was at her wits end with these neigghbors, and now the negitivty has become a positive. From and outside family member, i thank you for making this possible for Kathleen....we just want Kathleen to be happy and your generousity has made that possible...thank you everyone everywhere...god bless Robin Marks-Aunt NayNay

Long Time No See

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 6:58 p.m.

@Hans Masing Thank you so much! No family deserves the kind of abuse to which the Edwards were subjected, especially when they've suffered so much already because of a terrible illness that has struck down two family members and may soon also take the life of such a sweet and beautiful child. It's nice to know that there are truly good people like the Masings to help the human race compensate for the nastiness of people like the Petkovs. Also, thank you for the video and very nice pictures. Hans, you are a real hero. btw - I very much enjoyed thread 5684206. studmuffin, indeed.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 6:14 p.m.

I'm crying as I read this story....such love and generosity at one end of the spectrum cancels out such despicable behavior at the other. Thank you Hans and family and all those who contributed,the generosity is now "Payed Forward" to Mott Hospital..Good does triumph!!!


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 5:54 p.m.

What a beautiful little Angel she is! God has her wrapped in his gentle arms and he will punish the evil evil people who have tried so hard to hurt her! Yes indeed the devil still walks amoung us, we have seen his face and it is the face of the Petkovs! This innocent little girl has already lost so much in this world, her own momma and grandpa also her own health and now these nasty people want to hurt her more and more everyday. She will rise and prevail against this adult hatred and insanity and with the love of most of the world beside her! God bless you sweet Kathleen and I want to apologize to you (along with most of the world who are decent loving human beings) for having to deal with all this trash! They have no remorse, they think it all is a big joke, just watch their interviews. These adults need to be held accountable for their actions and need to be charged with hate crimes against a child! Let them pay and rot in jail. Has anybody checked into how they treat their own children?? Teaching their kids by example to act out in ugliness and anger is a sin. Kids watch every move you make. God bless each and every one of you who have reached out and extended their love and prayers towards this beautiful sweet child of God...


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 5:53 p.m.

Hans, Tricia, and Simone, thank you and everyone else who contributed to give this little girl one unforgettable day. What you did today probably meant more to Kathleen and her family than you'll ever know.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 5:44 p.m.

@Maple..I agree with you. Between this story and the rescue of the Chilean miners, it really makes my day (week). I give all credit to God. His Word (the Bible) is so true. In the case of Kathleen, what was meant to harm her, God turned the situation into something that benefited her. Thanks to all who participated in making Kathleen's day beautiful and thanks to all who made the Chilean miner's rescue safe, flawless, and quick.

Urban Sombrero

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 5:37 p.m.

Oh my god this story made me cry. Kathleen, there are so many people who are thinking of you and wishing you well. Please don't let the meanies get to you. Hans and Tricia, you guys are my heroes.

Hans Masing

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 4:54 p.m.

When I was getting my goodbye hug (and trust me, she hugged me like crazy), I whispered in Kathleen's ear and asked her, "Sweetheart, what was the best part of the day?" She thought for a moment, and whispered back... "Ponies." She smiled as she put her head on my shoulder. Thank you *everyone* who helped make this possible.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 4:11 p.m.

This story, along with the rescue of the Chilean miners, just made my week. I CAN NOT understand what on earth would motivate adults to do something so hideous to the little girl and her family, but the fact that a community rallied around the little girl is so heartwarming.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 2:56 p.m.

Hurray for Tree Town Toys of Ann Arbor! That's a great thing you're doing! Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Petkov's would STOP now. While I don't believe they are capable of regret, compassion, and/or true change of heart and remorse, I think they are now aware that the eyes of so many of us are on them. They'd best be careful with their words and actions, because at some point the law WILL step in to protect the innocent. All over not being invited to a Birthday party??!! Please!! My 7 yr. old grandson has more moral fiber than to act like that! But then, he knows to honor others privacy, feelings, and property, to say nothing of learning early about propriety!

Michael O

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 2:54 p.m.

What really irks and disturbs me is that ADULTS bullied a sick little girl....are you kidding me? Just when I think I've heard it all....


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 2:20 p.m.

just goes to show there is good in this world. Thank God that the pettieness of one family can be turned around to something good not just this poor little girl but for all the others suffering just like her.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 2:05 p.m.

Hans and Tricia Masing of Tree Town Toys: You've got another customer for life! I've loved your store before, but now we'll shop there exclusively for our 3 year old!


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 2:02 p.m.

This story made me weep. I will pray for her, although I have faith God will welome the little girl; but I think I will probably pray more for the Petkovs, who surely need it.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 1:44 p.m.

Bizarre behavior by the so called neighbors. My heart goes out to this little girl and her father. Thanks so much for the generosity by Masings and those who showed up in support. Here is a link with some background (hope it is okay to post) There is no reason for this.

Top Cat

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 1:32 p.m.

As for bad karma and the Petkovs, under the circumstances, who would now hire such notorious people. Chickens come home to roost. A nice story and a solid win for the good guys!


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 12:43 p.m.

This beautiful child deserves love and support while she struggles with her terminal illness. I hope that the people who have been tormenting this child are charged with a crime against humanity.