Inspirational Fremont cheerleader succumbs to rare disease

Sunday , June 01, 2014 - 10:33 PM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

PLAIN CITY – Kennedy Hansen, the 16-year-old Fremont High cheerleader who inspired many with her story, died from complications of Juvenile Batten Disease. Hansen died peacefully early Friday, May 30.

Kennedy started having symptoms of the disease about five years ago. Juvenile Batten Disease is a disorder that affects the nervous system progressively causing vision loss, intellectual and motor disability, speech difficulties and seizures. An official diagnosis was not given to the Hansen family until June 5, 2013.

Her immediate family posted a letter on Kennedy’s facebook page, “Kennedys Hugs.” That phrase was coined because Kennedy is well known for her hugs and offered them frequently.

“It all came together so perfectly and as she had wished. If you believe in miracles, we saw them today. She fought so hard to be with everyone who came and visited her,” the letter states.

Jill Schofield was Kennedy’s cheerleading advisor at Fremont High School where each of the 27 cheerleaders along with Schofield cherished their friendship with Kennedy.

“She lived life to the fullest. Nothing could stop her,” Schofield said of Kennedy.

It had always been a wish for Kennedy to be a cheerleader so when Schofield was approached for Kennedy to cheer with the Fremont High School team she was glad to have her. Schofield said she has many good memories of her times with Kennedy, but one that stands out he most is when the team won region earlier this year. “That was a very special day that had very little to do with a trophy, but we wanted the room to be filled with the loving spirit of Kennedy, and it was. As she stood in the center of our circle after awards, the team cheered around her and she was so excited. It was a special moment to literally watch a dream come true,” Schofield said.

In the family letter, they talked about Kennedy’s last visit with the cheerleading team. She told her parents that after the cheerleading girls came to visit she would be ready to go. Each girl laid by her side and told her goodbye.

“She cried with each one of them, knowing their pain,” the letter said. The girls then gathered around her and sang, “Let it go,” which the family said brought peace to her heart.

Kayden Gibson, another close friend of Kennedy’s, said that Kennedy had a kind of intuition that was amazing.

“She would just do simple acts of kindness and just knew who needed her and how to sympathize with others,” Gibson said. Gibson got to know Kennedy in seminary class. She said she and Kennedy just “clicked.”

Gibson went to visit Kennedy last Tuesday and was in awe of her giving spirit, even though it was so near the end of her life. Gibson brought a friend that Kennedy didn’t know and Kennedy sat up and held out her hand to touch her new friend. Afterward her friend that she couldn’t explain the feeling behind Kennedy’s touch.

“She is just always lifting people up,” Gibson said.

Everyone who speaks of Kennedy talks of her hugs. A foundation was started called, “Kennedy’s Hugs” because of this to help pay for medical bills and funeral costs. Green bracelets are for sell on the website, for $5. Donations can also be made to Mountain America Credit Union account No. 9640296.

Kennedy’s father, Jason wrote in the letter, “As we now move forward and carry on her journey and legacy we all must remember ’Kennedy’s Hugs’. They are real, they are amazing and they will last forever within us. We love you, we thank you and we ask for your prayers to console our hearts at this time.”

The letter talks of their faith and the strength it gives them. Schofield said the Kennedy leaves a legacy of love and is a friend to all, unconditionally, which is a great example for all that have come in contact with her. While spending those last moments with Kennedy was hard, it was special. “It was by far the most difficult part of this journey, yet a special time together as a team that none of us will forget, ever!” Schofield said.

A public viewing will be held Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lindquist Roy Mortuary, 3333 West 5600 South. Another public viewing and funeral service will be held June 5 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with the funeral from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Dee Event Center, 4400 Harrison Blvd., Ogden. Interment will be immediately following at the Ogden City Cemetery, 700 East 20th Street.

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