Friday , June 06, 2014 - 1:10 PM
OGDEN — Exactly one year following the official diagnosis of Juvenile Batten Disease, Kennedy Hansen’s family and friends gathered inside the Dee Events Center in honor of the young teen who inspired many.
“She always knew how to make you smile, and she always knew if you were feeling down. Her hugs were just amazing,” said Miranda Benson, a family friend.
The 16-year-old Fremont cheerleader died May 30 due to complications of Juvenile Batten Disease. This rare disease is a disorder that affects the nervous system and progressively causes vision loss and motor disability, among other difficulties. About one week following Kennedy Hansen’s death, thousands gathered to celebrate her life.
“She’s an angel, and she’s a great example in my life because she went through a lot of hard things, and always stayed strong,” said Owen Toone, a Fremont football player and friend of Kennedy’s.
Kennedy’s family continues to post letters on her Facebook page, “Kennedys Hugs.” She was known for her genuine hugs, offered regularly and to anyone. The page, dedicated to sharing her life story, had 6,000 likes days before her death. Just a week and a half later, “Kennedy’s Hugs” had received 60,000 likes.
“Come one, come all,” wrote her uncle Chris Hansen. “Kennedy does not want anyone feeling left out.” Indeed, thousands attended the public viewing and funeral service held Thursday.
On June 5, 2013 her father wrote, “Simply put, emotions are running pretty deep for me as Kennedy's dad Jason right now. The spiritual, emotional, financial and physical pressures of preparing her for what is to come ... is beautiful but exhausting! We feel of your support, prayers and love.”
On June 5, 2014 her father wrote, “She wanted to hold her funeral on June 5th, 2014 to mark one year to the day of her diagnosis. Her final wish has and will be granted. She realized, she knew and she accepted what laid ahead of her one year ago on this day. So, today as we celebrate her life, remember who she is and what she is about, all we can say is THANK YOU ... ’She's Home ... WE MADE IT KENNEDY... WE MADE IT!’”
During the funeral several family members, her cheer coach and boyfriend spoke of memories they had of her. Annalyn Hansen, Kennedy’s six-month younger sister, mentioned their years growing up, specifically “Friday night, movie nights.”
“When we got in trouble we were grounded from Disney Channel,” said Annalyn, speaking of their favorite television show in third and fourth grades. But when their mom and dad left, she and her “partner-in-crime” would wait for the garage to close and turn it on. “When we heard them pulling in, we would flip it to a news channel and turn it off. We knew what we were doing,” Annalyn joked.
Sixth through eighth grade was not as trying as 10th, but sophomore year was her “dream year,” her sister said.
Holding back the tears, cheer coach Jill Schofield agreed, “It was our dream as well.”
Schofield stood at the podium addressing the audience, “If Kennedy was here today she would say this, ’Whatever is holding you back from loving, forgiving ... let it go.’”
Following that remark, Kennedy’s cheer squad sang the song, “Let it Go” from the 2013 movie “Frozen.”
Kennedy’s cousin serving in Afghanistan sent a message, spoken by her aunt Kerilyn Pollock: “She always told me she was praying for me while at war,” he said.
Friday, May 30 was a difficult day for many. “She taught not only me, but everyone,” said her boyfriend, Jaden Loftus. “She cared, she truly cared -- if you were happy, she was happy; if you were sad, she was sad.”
Jaden, also a Fremont football player, meet Kennedy as a peer-tutor for her resource class. “She gave us something to rally for,” he said.
His teammate Brantezn Roadded agreed, “She always laughed and enjoyed life, which is something everybody should do.”
Kennedy is survived by her father; Jason, her mother; Heather, her sister Anna and brother Beau.
Contact reporter Morgan Briesmaster at 801-625-4268 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @SE_mbriesmaster. Like her Facebook page at http://facebook.com/SEMorganBriesmaster.
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