NEW PALESTINE — Students, teachers and administrators at Brandywine Elementary School headed back to classes Monday after Thanksgiving break with heavy hearts.
Officials from the Southern Hancock school district and family members shared news during the weekend about the passing of Brynnley Niederhaus, 6, who died Saturday, Nov. 27, after a long illness.
“We’re trying our best every day just to make memories, just enjoying her being a kid and making sure she laughs and smiles every day,” Kristyn Niederhaus said about Brynnley in October 2020.
“For everyone in the community who has prayed for my daughter and my family this last year and a half, it is with the most unbearable heartbreak that we announce yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, she gained her wings,” her mother, Kristyn Niederhaus, said in a social media post.
Brynnley was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an inoperable tumor on her brain stem, in May of 2020. Since then, her family has been embraced by the community; several fundraisers have been held to support the family, and “Brynnley Strong” signs popped up in yards to remind people to think about the cheerful little girl and her family.
Brynnley was known as a bright, caring and kind student who was well-loved by her school community, Brandywine Elementary School Principal Austin Theobald said.
“We are heartbroken over the loss of Brynnley,” he said in a news release.
The youngster was known around the school as the queen of practical jokes. Theobald said she had the best sense of humor.
“She was a light to all who were fortunate enough to cross her path,” Theobald said. “She brought such joy, love and laughter to our school.”
Her family said she touched many hearts and was a hero and an inspiration to so many people to never give up no matter what the odds. She was the type of child whose smile would light up a room.
“Don’t cry and B-Strong,” was one of her sayings.
In a story about Brynnley in the Daily Reporter in October 2020, her family described what it had been like to confront such a grim diagnosis. The majority of children diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma only live about nine months after diagnosis. Less than 2% live more than two years.
“We’re trying our best every day just to make memories, just enjoying her being a kid and making sure she laughs and smiles every day,” Kristyn said at the time.
“Our philosophy from day one is that we want to make the most of the time we have left. It’s hard, because you like to have hope and to think she’ll overcome it. The further we’ve gotten into this, the harder some of the days are.”
In an update earlier this month, Kristyn said Brynnley had completed a round of chemotherapy in August but that new tumors had been discovered outside the original radiation field. Complications had affected Brynnley’s lungs and had left her short of breath, and she was hospitalized for treatment.
“Overall, though, she is pain-free, still smiling and laughing and loving kindergarten!” Kristyn told the Daily Reporter.
District and school officials thanked the community for the continued support of the family. They said counselors would be available to talk to grieving students at her school.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, at Erlewein Mortuary & Crematory, 1484 W. U.S. 40, Greenfield. The funeral service will be at noon Friday, Dec. 3 at Brandywine Community Church, 1551 E. New Road, Greenfield, with additional visitation an hour before the service.
“We just ask that anyone coming please wear purple,” her mother said. “Thank you for loving, supporting and praying for us.”