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Posted on Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:37 a.m.

Tree Town Toy owners arrange shopping spree for dying 7-year-old cyber-bullied by neighbors

By Juliana Keeping

An Ann Arbor family wants a dying 7-year-old Trenton girl who has been cyber-bullied over her genetic disease to know this: People care.

News that Kathleen Edward’s neighbors made fun of her deadly genetic condition — superimposing a skull and crossbones over the dying girl’s face in a photo posted on Facebook — horrified and hurt Hans and Tricia Masing, Ann Arbor toy store owners who have two children of their own.

The owners of specialty toy retailers Tree Town Toys decided to do something. They arranged a dream day for the girl, including a shopping spree at their place.

And they're inviting the community to come along to cheer on Kathleen Thursday morning.

Her special day begins 9:30 a.m. at Tree Town Toys, 2611 Plymouth Road, in the Traver Village Shopping Center. That spree will follow a donated limousine ride from her home. She’ll walk down a red carpet donated by A1 Rental. Busch’s has donated hot cider and donuts for the crowd the toy store owners hope will show up.


Kathleen Edward, right, sits beside Simone, Hans Masing's daughter.

Mlive photo: Courtesy of Hans Masing

After the spree, Kathleen and her family will deliver toys from the store to children at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Kathleen will also be taken out to lunch for her favorite meal, steak and watermelon.

“If we’re going to make her a princess for a day, let’s make her a real princess,” Hans Masing said. “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.”

The little girl has Huntington’s disease, a rare, genetic and deadly degenerative brain disease. According to news reports, the disease killed her mother.

Last week, neighbors allegedly doctored the photo of Kathleen, as well as a photo of the girl’s mother, in the arms of the grim reaper, and posted the photos on Facebook. They painted a truck with death messages and put a coffin in the back, parking it in front of the family’s home.

A neighborhood dispute over a birthday party allegedly sparked those actions. The couple, Jennifer and Scott Petkov, has since apologized, according to news reports.

Hans Masing is a frequent user of news aggregator Reddit, an online community that votes stories they find the most interesting to the top of the web page. Users participate in the conversation via online comments, which are also voted up or down. He saw her story posted Reddit, and posted a plea to the community there as well.

What started out as an idea to raise a few hundred dollars for the family morphed into an Internet phenomenon that’s still gaining speed.

Fueled by media reports and the online community, the story made headlines across the world.

A Paypal account got $16,000 in donations in four days. Donations have come in from as far as Sweden, Norway, Australia, Pakistan and Japan, Masing said. A portion of the money will go to a fund set up to send Kathleen on a vacation, and the money not spent by her will be used to purchase toys for Mott Children’s Hospital, he said.

He plans to donate any profits to the family fund.

Kathleen Edward’s family was not immediately available for comment.

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



Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 8:18 p.m.

Thanks Hans and Tricia! What a great response---how inspiring that so many people have contributed.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 7:34 p.m.

Hans and Tricia Masing, you set an example for all of us to follow, it probably sounds clich and you may even get this all the time, but this act reminds me of how beautiful the human condition can be. I wish I could have been there to cheer for Kathleen and personally shake both you and your wife's hands.

Michael O

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

wait,wait,wait....These were ADULTS who did this to a sick child?....are you kidding me?


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

A hearty thanks to Tree Town Toys and the others who helped this little girl have a special day. This renews my faith in humans.

say it plain

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 11:26 a.m.

I can't even bring myself to read the details of the petkovs' monstrousness, yikes. Kathleen may have an illness, but she has love and the good will and good wishes of so many people. The petkovs have only a horrific deficit it seems, a sociopathic hole where a heart should be. There is reason to believe that some people really do lack a conscience, that it's perhaps in part genetic. Such a syndrome might not cause one to pass away too young, but think of what a reduced life it is to be like's the only way I can begin to understand such cruelty. I mean, the anonymity of the internet and our cruel-is-funny reality-tv culture may give people like the petkovs the idea that such rancid behavior is not beyond the pale perhaps, but to carry something like that out has *got* to require extraordinary lack of human empathy. Thanks to the Masings and Tree Town Toys for countering that by organizing such a lovely outpouring of love and support for Kathleen and her family! I wish I had read this beforehand so I could have thrown rose petals at the red carpet too! My own daughter's favorite meal might be just that exact one as Kathleen's...I hope she enjoys it very much!


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 8:12 a.m.

Cyber bullying is a crime. I think on the federal level. There are a group of children out east? Who are being charged with a girls death and I think there is another case either in trial or awaiting trial as we speak. I am very surprised the police have not charged the neighbors with this crime. Maybe the parents want to over look it? I wouldn't and won't happen on my watch. Over a birthday party? Come on people get real. Best wishes to the girl. Sorry to see a life go before she has time to really live it.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 8 a.m.

God bless you Tricia and Hans for providing a very special day for this lovely young lass. Being the grandmother of two special needs grandchildren, I know that life can sometimes be difficult, but they have taught me the most precious qualities of life -- love, patience, and compassion. To the bullies, shame on you. To Kathleen, I know your very special day will the the ultimate -- enjoy, enjoy.

Steve Pepple

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 6:57 a.m.

Two comments were removed because of name-calling. While you may comment on the actions of the couple that allegedly harassed the girl, please keep the discourse civil.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 12:51 a.m.

Just when you think humanity has sunk to the lowest depths! Kathleen, not everyone is like the Petkov's, many many people do care. Enjoy your day, and thank you Hans and Tricia.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:06 p.m.

My father battles the same disease and my sister inherited it from him. I am disgusted with that couple! I have put up with stares and comments from people when I'm in public with my father, but to stoop as low as attacking a 7 year old?! Their day is coming...I am a true believer in karma;)

Ryan Munson

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 8 p.m.

Absolutely amazing of the support from all. It shows to the truth that goodness overcomes hatred.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 7:20 p.m.

Thanks, Tree Town, for doing something good after a bad situation. Also, Millermaple's idea is a good one. The managers at the Ark are Marianne James and Anya Siglin. Maybe they can discuss the matter with Arlo.

Julie Martin

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 4:44 p.m.

Good job everyone at Tree Town Toys!


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 2:22 p.m.

Finally something worth reading. Hans is a great guy. I think what he and his wife are doing is absolutely wonderful.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 2:12 p.m.

@ millermaple, brilliant idea! Anyone from with press credentials want to follow up?


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 2:05 p.m.

All the best to the beautiful little girl. Keep up the fight. As for Jennifer and Scott Petkov, I will simply NEVER understand why people need to be so cruel and I hope I never do! Tsk tsk...


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 2:03 p.m.

Arlo Guthrie will be at the Ark in a few days, maybe someone from the Ark could contact him about this? he's quite involved w/ Huntington's foundation- everyone knows his father died of Huntington's disease.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 1:31 p.m.

We are discussing about bullying in school. What is this? Jennifer and Scott Petkov should be charged and tried for bullying such a beautiful girl who is suffering from a terminal disease. I know each community has its own garbage, but then how much should one tolerate such garbage?


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 1:10 p.m.

So proud Tree Town Toys is part of our community! I will be doing more shopping there for now on. Bravo to them for stepping up and I hope Kathleen has an unforgettable experience.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 12:44 p.m.

Good job, Hans and Tricia!!!!!

Top Cat

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 12:37 p.m.

In view of the situation, Kathleen and her family have displayed a warmth and grace that is exemplary. The way people have rallied to their support shows how many good people exist in the world. The Petkovs are getting their just deserts. Sometimes things end well.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 12:26 p.m.

I am stunned at how cruel people can be. I have a 7 year old daughter and my husband lost his father when he was 7. The thought of losing my daughter after losing a wife is heartbreaking. To Jennifer Petkov, that is not an apology. You should be ashamed of yourself. This media attention seems to be the karma that is deserved.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 12:24 p.m.

If we could do the little meters from the paper - Hans, Treetown and Kathleen all deserve a green one with the needle all the way to the top! The neighbors, the other one, red and the needle at the bottom. AA.COM for running the story another green one. Thank you AA.COM and all the good guys here.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

Am I reading this right? These were adults doing this to a 7 year old girl?

Urban Sombrero

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 11:48 a.m.

Wow, bullying a 7 year old. No, a sick and dying 7 year old. I can't wrap my mind around that. Wow. To the owners of Tree Town Toys---I have patronized your store for a long time now, and think it's one of the coolest in town. (Seriously, you guys have the best stuff.) I am just amazed, awed and blown away by your kindness in this situation. You definitely have a customer for life in me. People like you guys are the reson I still have (at least a little) faith in humanity.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 11:26 a.m.

Sad story, poor little girl. Another reason to completely stay away from facebook. People are so "tough" on the internet and it humors me. Google yourself and see what comes up. That's not all that's collected and saved about you. Bravo to you Tree Town Toys, many thanks!


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 11:23 a.m.

What a terrific story!


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 10:25 a.m.

and nice modeling for your own kids, Petkovs. I hope the children will learn some positive life lessons from all of this.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 10:09 a.m.

I saw this on the news last night. What a shame. It's hard to believe in this day and age that this could happen. Good for Tree Town Toys and everybody involved for what you are doing! Gotta like Kathleen's favorite meal, steak and watermellon. That made me smile.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:45 a.m.

Here is Jennifer Petkov's "apology:" "If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't do it," Jennifer Petkov told Ronnie Dahl. "And to that little girl, I apologize if you've been hurt. There's not much more I can say. And hopefully we can live our lives peacefully from now on." Sounds so sincere.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:35 a.m.

Hooray for Tree Town Toys!!! It sounds like Kathleen's special day will be wonderful! As for Jennifer and Scott Petkov -- SHAME on you.

Jim Clarkson

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

Sooooooooo, did the neighbors Jennifer and Scott Petkov get charged with anything. I thought that cyber bullying was a crime. On the other side it is awesome to hear that a bunch of people have stepped up to make a very special day for this young girl.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:15 a.m.

I had not heard of this, either, until I read this story and I was just thinking over and over again "you have got to be kidding me!" I can't imagine how anyone could direct such venom towards a dying girl. Way to go Masing's Tree Town Toys for showing us the good side of humanity!!!


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:11 a.m.

Go Hans and Tricia!

Hans Masing

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:05 a.m.

@LA - you can follow the full story at our website: There is a video link there to a newscast with the grandmother and father on Fox 2 Detroit last night, and the feud did apparently start over a moon-bounce house during a family party two years ago. Thank you, everyone, for your support in this endeavor for Kathleen and CS Mott's Children's Hospital!


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:01 a.m.

Thank you for this article. While I check the news on the internet, usually daily, I had never seen Kathleen's story. Thanks to Tree Town for stepping up and giving the little girl a wonderful princess day! Words cannot express my feelings for the people/family that started the cyber-slams and even stepped it up to the 'real' world with the truck and coffin in their driveway. Can this really all be traced to a dispute over a birthday party?????? Please provide some more in-depth background as to the cause of such anger and evil intent towards a child. How can we ever hope to stop young people from bullying each other (esp the cyber-bullying that has been so incredibly prominent lately), when it seems that adults are just as adept at it... towards a CHILD??? A motherless, dying little girl????