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Posted on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

Girl who had Ann Arbor shopping spree after online taunts dies

By Julie Baker

Kathleen Edward, the 9-year-old Wyandotte girl whose battle with Huntington's Disease drew national attention, including from a local toy store, will be remembered for her smile and her hugs.

She died Wednesday at home, her father Robert Edward told The Detroit News.

Her story drew national attention in 2010 after neighbors taunted her online.


Kathleen Edward plays with a toy train inside Tree Town Toys in Ann Arbor on Oct. 14, 2010. file photo

Hans Masing, owner of Ann Arbor toy store Tree Town Toys, told Thursday that he'll remember Kathleen's smile and her hugs the most. Tree Town, which closed its physical store last month, organized a shopping spree with the contributers of the website Reddit for the girl in 2010.

“If we’re going to make her a princess for a day, let’s make her a real princess,” Masing said at the time. “I want hundreds of people cheering her on. Let’s throw rose petals. Let’s make her understand this is all about her — her day of a lifetime.”

One of the memories of Kathleen he'll cherish most happened after the shopping spree and visits to Domino's Petting Farm and the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. They were saying goodbye, and Kathleen gave him one of her "amazing" hugs.

"I asked her what the best part of the day was, and she whispered in my ear, 'Ponies,' " he said.

The families kept in touch after their Ann Arbor visit, even having dinner about a month ago. Kathleen had lost weight, but she was smiling and giggling as usual, Masing said. "She was still very playful with her father," he said.

Kathleen fell and cut her head about a week ago, which required staples. An infection took hold, and antibiotics weren't able to help.

Arrangements with Michigan Memorial Funeral Home in Flat Rock were pending Thursday. The News reported Kathleen is expected to be buried at Mount Hope Memorial Gardens in Livonia next to her mother, Laura Edward, who died of Huntington's disease in 2009.

In 2010, a former neighbor in the Detroit suburb of Trenton taunted Kathleen. One Facebook posting was of her photo placed above a set of crossbones and another included a photo of her mother in the arms of the grim reaper.

Masing said Kathleen's struggle with Huntington's drew national attention to the disease. He encouraged those who want to help others with Huntington's to check out the Michigan Chapter of the Huntington's Disease Society of America.

"It's a very cruel disease," he said. "We're going to miss her."

See photos and a video from Kathleen's Tree Town Toys shopping spree.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Julie Baker at or 734-623-2576. Follow her on Twitter @juliebakera2.



Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 11:17 p.m.

Kathleen will be a princess forever


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Online taunts? What? Way to put a stupid headline that makes no sense on this sad story and then provide zero discussion of it in your article.

Julie Baker

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

From the story: In 2010, a former neighbor in the Detroit suburb of Trenton taunted Kathleen. One Facebook posting was of her photo placed above a set of crossbones and another included a photo of her mother in the arms of the grim reaper. This story is meant to focus on who Kathleen was as a person, how she touched many lives and drew attention to Huntington's disease, not dwell on the taunting she initially faced. The previous story that is linked to in the article provides more information on that: <a href=""></a> Thanks for reading.

Sarah Rigg

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

Well, there is a link in the story to past coverage that does discuss the online taunting.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 4:09 a.m.

rest in peace little angel.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 3:25 a.m.

Sympathies to the family and friends. It's sad that it takes death to finally see any empathy and sense of community from most posters on this site, however.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 2:54 a.m.

Hugs and prayers for her father and extended family. As another person said, she is with her mother now and in God's hands. This kind of news puts everything in perspective does it not ! I cannot imagine losing a child and pray often that this never happens to me.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 1:45 a.m.

It shouldn't shock me that adults can participate in such hateful actions, but it does. They should know better. And their apology was anything but heartfelt. Nobody, child or adult, should have to experience such hateful and immature behavior.

Bertha Venation

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 5:57 p.m.

To put it mildly!


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 1:01 a.m.

What an irony. Kathleen dies almost right after Tree Town closes its doors. At least they gave each other a special time together. Children should never go before their parents. Mother and child together in heaven.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 10:52 p.m.

Rest in peace Kathleen. And my sympathies to Robert and the rest of his family.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 10:53 p.m.

Sorry, I thought my first one didn't go through.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 10:49 p.m.

Rest in peace little one. My wife and I send our heartfelt sympathy to Robert and the rest of his family.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

To the Edwards' family: Please know that the readers understand what a special girl Kathleen is and that the entire community shares in the mourning of her passing. I wish we could offer more comfort at this time.

Mary Bilyeu

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

This is so sad. I'm so very sorry for your loss ....


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 7:59 p.m.

So very sad. She's now in the arms of the angels; no more pain, no more taunts, just surrounded by God's eternal love. Rest in peace, little one.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

I know you rose up into the loving arms of your mother. That is consolation to those who miss you so much already. May Angels lead you into paradise; may the Martyrs receive you at your coming: and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May a choir of Angels receive you ........


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

@Cash - beautful....

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.



Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

Darling Child, you were an angel here on earth...and you were so special, God called you to be an angel in prayers are for the family.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

My wife, daughter and I were there to cheer on Kathleen the day that Hans generously gave her a shopping spree at Tree Town Toys and it was powerfully moving to see everyone rally behind her during such a difficult time. Now Tree Town Toys is gone, and so is Kathleen. RIP.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

Rest in peace now, little one. You were brave, and now you get to see your mommy again.