A local family planned to raise money for their 3-year-old child's medical bills, but on Friday night they said they will open a foundation in her memory after the little girl's recent death.
A packed crowd, including Washington Capitals players, paid tribute to little Emma Hensel in Arlington, Virginia. Emma died Jan. 31 of an inoperable brain tumor and is survived by her parents, older sister and many relatives.
Hensel's mother, Teal, said she had mixed emotions Friday night at the fundraiser.
"[I'm] overwhelmed, grateful, sad that Emma couldn't be here," she said.
Using the slogan "Emma Strong," the Hensels, of Frostburg, Maryland, previously had arranged to hold a fundraiser to help support the family as the child fought for her life. Now, they need help covering more than $100,000 in medical bills. Also, they say they will start a foundation called Emma's Wish, to raise money for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"I feel like my daughter was such a fighter. She would want me to continue to fight and love people who were helping us," Teal Hensel said.
Capitals players held a raffle to help the effort.
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"Such a bright spirit, a little girl that had lots of energy," player Karl Alzner said.
"The four of us here all have young kids, so, I think it probably hits you a little harder," player Brooks Orpik said.
The athletes all said they want to honor a precious little girl, whose legacy will continue.
"We plan on helping and keeping her going," Emma's mother said.
To contribute to the Hensel family's fund, visit this webpage.