Emma Mertens, the Wisconsin girl who gained thousands of supporters after she asked for love letters from dogs to help her through her battle with a rare and inoperable brain tumor known as a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), has died.
The 8-year-old’s family shared the heartbreaking news on Emma’s Caring Bridge page.
“Emma Claere Mertens (age 8) passed away at her Hartland, WI home in the arms of her mother and father on Sunday, November 17th. She fought hard against a DIPG Brain Tumor but it was time to go home and leave the pain behind. In her final hours, she was told how much she was loved,” the girl’s father, Geoff Mertens, wrote on Emma’s page.
Emma was diagnosed with the rare DIPG brain tumor in January, after experiencing headaches and flu-like symptoms. Not long after her diagnosis, Emma was told by doctors she likely only had 9 months to live. The Mertens family held strong in the face of this devastating news, and focused on fighting for Emma’s life and enjoying each day they had at home together.
“Our goal is still to celebrate each day, one day at a time. Today was a good day. We had a break in between appointments and went to Build-A-Bear and the Cheesecake Factory,” Geoff Mertens wrote on Feb. 7.
The family put out a call for love letters from dogs all across the world, as a way for everyone touched by Emma’s story to help, since Emma was a huge fan of animals, particularly pooches. Countless canines answered Emma’s ask, sending in thousands of inspiring and comforting messages, pictures and gifts from around the globe.
Along with the doggy love letters, Emma also received a special welcome from a group of K-9s. According to USA Today, in March, dozens of police officers and their K-9s companions lined the street leading to Emma’s home, to welcome the girl back from a trip to the hospital.
Emma’s supportive fanbase also raised over $137,000 on GoFundMe to help cover her medical costs.
In memory of Emma, the Mertens family would like to give back to animal lovers.
“In lieu of gifts and flowers, the family is asking that you keep Emma’s memory alive by supporting her foundation at http://www.emmalovesdogs.org. Through all of this battle, all Emma wanted to do was spread kindness and help animals,” Geoff Mertens wrote on Emma’s Caring Bridge page on Tuesday.
The Emma Loves Dogs Foundation, founded in August, was created by Emma and her family as a way “to provide financial assistance to organizations that share Emma’s passion for helping animals,” per USA Today.
The Mertens plan to live stream Emma’s service on her Facebook page, “so all who have shown her love over the last 10 months can participate regardless of where they live in the world,” her father added.
The memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 23rd at 3 p.m. EST.