WEST HAVEN, Utah -- For the last year, Jason Hansen has been storing away memories he never thought he’d be able to make with his 16-year-old daughter.
“She is my girl, my heart. She is maturing spiritually, but dying physically,” Hansen said.
The words came from a blog the father from West Haven began last June, when his daughter, Kennedy Hansen, was diagnosed with Juvenile Batten Disease, a degenerative illness that robbed her of both sight and mind.
“Her official diagnosis came June 5, 2013," he said. "One year to the date, her funeral was held one year to the date of the diagnosis.”
Thousands crowded into the Dee Event Center at Weber State University on Thursday to pay their respects to the teen, who in her short life managed to touch the lives of so many others.
“She lived a million lifetimes in one year,” Hansen said. “If you weren't part of it, you wouldn't believe it. There are so many stories that have happened. Lives have been impacted. That's all Kennedy wanted.”
He started logging every detail on Facebook.
“She got to experience every dream that every teenage girl would ever want to, every single one,” Hansen said.
From achievements in the classroom and trips with Dad, to even making it on to the varsity cheer squad, where she inspired 26 girls to all root for her.
“When Kennedy came into the picture, that was the catalyst," said Jill Schofield, who is the head cheer coach at Fremont High School. "It was what was needed to take the focus off themselves and take the focus off of their own personal lives. And they became completely immersed in Kennedy."
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It was a year her family expected to be their most challenging.
“Every time I walk, every time I talk, every time I see, I’m grateful. Because that’s what Kennedy lost,” Hansen said.
But reading through the last 12 months, Hansen doesn't think of the memories he and Kennedy will never get together.
“You want to see your kids experience the love of their lives. You want to see them excel,” Hansen said. “And there was a time when I did not think we would see that with her.”
He just remembers all the ones they did make.
"And she proved me wrong. And that's what I love about her,” Hansen said.
A donation fund has been created to help the family with medical and funeral expenses. If you would like to make a contribution, click here.
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