Teen Dies Hours Before Homecoming Celebration, Welcoming Party Turns To Vigil

Mulvane, KS – The town was all set for a homecoming celebration. One of their residents, 15-year-old Taylor Heersche, was scheduled to come home to spend the final days of her life in her beloved hometown.

But what was supposed to be a welcome-home parade turned into “a somber candlelight vigil” for the terminally ill teen.

While residents of Mulvane had decorated Main Street with ribbons and signs in orange — the official color of leukemia awareness — Taylor never got to see the celebration awaiting her. The teen, who had requested that she be moved home to die, passed away in the hospital Tuesday morning, her parents at her side.

The sophomore was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just 10 years old. Although the cancer initially responded well to treatment and she was in remission for several years, it returned with a vengeance.

Residents of the town of Mulvane had decorated Main Street with ribbons and signs in orange to welcome Taylor Heersche home Tuesday evening, The Wichita Eagle reported. She died Tuesday morning, just hours before her scheduled homecoming.

“I prayed for her and thought about her and it just really breaks my heart that she had to die so young,” says her former classmate, Monica Biltz.

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Taylor requested that her neighbors and friends celebrate her life instead of mourning. The town is trying the best they can to honor those wishes. “It’s still a homecoming in our eyes, it’s just a different home that she’s going to, a better home that she’s going to, so it’s more of a celebration than the grief,” says Maggie Keys, one of Taylor’s classmates.

Many of the townspeople were gathered, wearing shirts that Taylor herself designed. The emblem on the T-shirts was designed to “describe the community that put their arms around her while she was sick.”

“I’ll bet every parent says that their kid was special. But she was a real people person. There were no strangers,” DeAnne Heersche said of her daughter. “That kind of kid leaves a huge hole not only in our family, but in the community. We’re all going to miss her horribly.”

Watch the town’s moving tribute to Taylor here.