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December 26, 2013

Sick girl, who heard Christmas carols as last wish, dies

Reading Eagle

WEST READING, Pa. — Many of the thousands who gathered Saturday on a West Reading street to sing Christmas carols to Delaney Brown probably never heard of the 8-year-old girl until last week. But the dying girl's story, followed by tens of thousands via social media, resonated in the community and far beyond.

Delaney, nicknamed "Laney," died early Wednesday, four days after people fulfilled one of her wishes by singing in front of her home.

Laney took her last breath at 3:10 a.m., surrounded by her family and friends, the family announced Christmas morning.

"My heart breaks right now," her mother, Jennifer Brown, wrote on the Team Laney Facebook page. "Our little angel on earth earned her pink glittery angel wings in heaven."

Laney, a second-grader at Wyomissing Hills Elementary School, was diagnosed in May with a rare form of leukemia. She received five rounds of radiation therapy and a stem cell transplant in September, and there were high hopes that she would beat the disease. Residents held fundraisers to help defray the family's medical expenses. The Team Laney Facebook page served as a rallying point for her supporters.

On Dec. 17 her mother dropped a bombshell on Facebook: Doctors had told the family the cancer had spread beyond their ability to treat it. They referred her to hospice care.

Even as her illness worsened, Laney never stopped having faith. She continued to smile in spite of her pain, and she showed more concern for others than for herself, family spokesman Christopher Winters said.

"Laney generated so much spirit and hope that I don't think we've begun to realize the impact she has and will have," Winters said. "Laney was a gift to all of us, and now it is up to us to choose how to use that gift. Whether you heard about Laney five months ago or five days ago, you couldn't help but be drawn in by her smile, her faith, her family, her story, her courage.

"With the love and strong faith of her family, Laney was able to change lives and remind us of the true meaning of Christmas. The unbelievable support and response of this wonderful community and people across this country and around the world is, in itself, a Christmas miracle."

Family members have asked that people respect their privacy as they mourn.

Those whose hearts were captured by Laney's story expressed messages of condolence via social media Wednesday. The Team Laney page had gained more than 124,000 "likes" on Facebook by Christmas afternoon.

Winters said the Browns will miss Laney in many ways, especially the way her smile, even in her sickness, would light up a room.

"She has one of the most loving families I've ever met, and that love and their strong faith allowed them to never, ever lose hope," he said.

Copyright 2013 Reading Eagle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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