Cancer takes 'Sassy Massey,' 5, who collected toys for hospitalized children

  • Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
10:14 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 What To Know
Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Toy donations.

Jillian Massey, the 5-year-old cancer patient who touched hearts by collecting toys for other children undergoing treatment at Pennsylvania hospitals, died Monday night, The Morning Call reported.

Jillian, whose courage inspired the Sassy Massey Toy Drive that is now in its second year, had been suffering from medulloblastoma, a cancer that affects the brain and spine.

Her family posted the news on a Facebook page called “Jillian Paige — You got this girl.”
“Jillian closed her eyes at around 8 p.m. tonight and opened her wings to fly home to her tribe of angels today,” according to the post. “It was peaceful and perfect in so many ways. … She didn’t lose this battle because she never knew she was battling. Rather she won. She won the right to be a 5 yr old showing the world how to live and not worry about fighting a monster that she didn't know existed or ever had a fair chance at beating. There is no fight in the unknown.”

Jillian’s parents, Janelle and Jim Massey, said their daughter’s health began to decline rapidly two weeks ago, the Morning Call reported. On Nov. 22, Jillian walked into a Target store near her Pennsylvania home to kick off the second year of the Sassy Massey Toy Drive.

But soon after Thanksgiving she began to lose balance and movement in her arms and legs, the Morning Call reported.

The toy drive began in 2016 when the employees of Ryan Homes of West Chester, where Janelle Massey works, were looking for an idea for their annual charity drive.

Jillian had been receiving her cancer treatments at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia since that summer. So a colleague of Janelle Massey, Dan Emmerson, suggested honoring Jillian in whatever the company decided to do, the Morning Call reported.

The goal was to collect about 50 toys for the hospital’s pediatric oncology unit, but by mid-December, donations had exceeded 3,000 toys. Jillian delivered the toys just before Christmas.

This year, Southern Lehigh Middle School gym teacher Devon Hagy, who teaches one of Jillian’s two brothers, decided to help. She asked students to collect as much money as they could for Sassy Massey and hoped to raise $8,000. The children nearly doubled that amount, the Morning Call reported.

Hagy said she was numbed by Jillian’s death.

“I truly believe we have all been touched by an angel,” she told the Morning Call. “She has made such an imprint on the community, on our area, the state, possibly even nationally. She will forever be remembered and I think we’re going to always follow her mission and continue to bless the children, to spread her love.”

This year’s toys will be delivered to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley Hospital, Doylestown Hospital and DuPont Children’s Hospital in Delaware, the Morning Call reported.

Jillian “is now in a place where smiles are on the faces of all whom greeted her upon her arrival,” her parents wrote on Facebook. “ She will be able to slide down rainbows for a quick visit and return to heaven to her new home whenever she wants. She will never know pain, anger or sadness. She will only know love and joy.”

View full experience