Kings Valley girl would have turned 4 years old Monday
Snuggled up between her mother and father, Lilli Trippe gave each of her parents a kiss and she told them she loved them. A few hours later, she took her last breath.
"It was a really good gift that she gave us," Kristin Trippe said. "She said she wasn't scared. She was a very brave girl."
Lilli died just before 4 a.m. Tuesday at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, six days shy of her fourth birthday. She had battled leukemia since she was eight months old.
Although her parents Kristin and Aaron Trippe of Kings Valley are mourning the loss of their only child, they take comfort in the fact that Lilli touched so many people.
"Monday is her birthday, so we've been getting presents from across the country and around the world," Kristin Trippe said. "It's hard. But on the flip side, complete strangers are sending these heart-felt gifts."
The couple posted the sad news on their Caringbridge website just a few hours after her death. The site connects people who are going through serious health crises. In less than 24 hours, 200 messages had been posted to the site from family, friends and strangers.
"It's priceless to have all of that support," Aaron Trippe said. "It would be harder to get through all of it alone. It really shows that she really made a difference in this world."
Lilli underwent two bone marrow transplants, suffered cardiac arrests and countless hours of chemotherapy and blood transfusions. But her life was happy, and she was surrounded by love, Kristin Trippe said.
"She made people smile despite her incredible hardships," she said. "People saw her and what she was going through and then thought, my problems are nothing ... she taught a lot of people how to live."
Kristin and Aaron Trippe said Lilli had many enjoyable days in her short life. She visited Disney World three times in the past year; she got to dance on stage with the Yonder Mountain String Band - her favorite group. The band played a song they'd written just for her titled "Lilli has a Daydream."
The local community showed their overwhelming support for Lilli. The Corvallis Fire Department competed in a stair climb fundraiser in February that raised money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in honor of Lilli. Also in February, the OSU men's and women's choirs hosted a fundraising event where about 30 people shaved their heads and raised money for St. Baldrick's, a childhood cancer research foundation, also in Lilli's honor. Employees from the Corvallis Home Depot organized the building of a playhouse for Lilli, which was completed in April.
"(These groups) did these things for her and came away from it fuller and better people," Kristin Trippe said. Aaron Trippe said that people instantly took to Lilli because "she had an incredibly strong and bright spirit."
A celebration of her life is scheduled for July 31 at the Oregon Garden in Silverton; a time has not yet been scheduled.
The Trippes said that people can still donate to the Lilli Trippe Medical Fund at OSU Federal Credit Union. The money now will go to supporting nonprofits that fight children's cancer and support children who have cancer.
The Trippes said they plan to start their own charity to address some of the unmet needs of children with cancer and their families as a way to honor Lilli.
Emily Gillespie can be reached at 541-758-9548 or firstname.lastname@example.org.