Caroling for a dying child

In West Reading, Pa., thousands of people gathered on Saturday to sing Christmas carols at the home of Delaney "Laney" Brown, 8. Mike Simmons holds his daughter Gracie, 11, while Gracie shoots video of the event. The Brown family announced Laney's death on Christmas Day. (Ben Hasty / Reading Eagle / AP / December 21, 2013)

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An 8-year-old Pennsylvania girl, whose battle against a rare form of leukemia became a social media sensation that inspired thousands of people to gather and sing her Christmas carols, has succumbed to her disease, her family announced on Wednesday.

Delaney Brown of West Reading “passed away quietly with her loving family by her side,” family spokesman Christopher Winters said in a statement posted Wednesday on Facebook.

Known by her nickname, Laney, the child was a second-grader at Wyomissing Hills Elementary School. She was diagnosed in May with a rare form of leukemia and received five rounds of radiation therapy, then a stem cell transplant in September.

Her condition took a turn for the worse last week, and doctors told her parents, Jennifer and Jeremiah Brown, that the girl had just days or weeks to live.

Laney’s plight went viral, mainly because of a Facebook page known as Team Laney, which has drawn more than 120,000 likes.

On Saturday night, as many as 10,000 people gathered outside her home in eastern Pennsylvania to fulfill her wish for a huge holiday singalong. The crowd sang such favorites as “Frosty the Snowman,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Jingle Bells,” ending with a chorus of "Happy Birthday" to the girl, who had turned 8 the day before, according to the Reading Eagle.

Shortly after the caroling began, the family's Facebook page showed a picture of the child with two thumbs up with a caption: “I can hear you now!!! Love you!”

An update on the Facebook page, posted on Christmas Day, said: “My heart breaks right now. Our little angel on earth earned her pink glittery angel wings in heaven. She took her last breath at home in her bed at 3:10 surrounded by all her family and friends. I miss her so much already.”

In a formal statement, the family said:

“We are devastated by the loss of our Laney. She was our angel. We will miss her smile, her laughter, and the way she would light up any room she was in. We are eternally grateful for all of the love, kindness, prayers and support that we have received from people across the world. You will never know how meaningful it was for all of you to rally around Laney. Laney was a wonderful, kind, and loving child, who brought so much joy to our lives. Even as her illness progressed, Laney never stopped having faith, she continued to smile in spite of her pain, and she showed more concern for all of us than for herself.

“We will miss her every day of our lives and the void she’s left will never be filled. Our sincerest thanks for all that each of you have done. Your prayers and well wishes gave both Laney and us great comfort as we made our way through this very difficult time. We know Laney is in heaven and watching over all of us."

Funeral arrangements are pending.

 

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