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Parade turns to vigil for Kansas teen who dies hours before homecoming

Heersche family

Undated photo of Taylor Heersche

What was supposed to be a welcome-home parade instead turned into a somber candlelight vigil for a terminally ill 15-year-old Kansas girl who died hours before she was to return home.

Residents of the town of Mulvane had decorated Main Street with ribbons and signs in orange — the color of leukemia awareness — to welcome Taylor Heersche home Tuesday evening, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Taylor had been terminally ill with cancer and had told her family she wanted to be at home to die. Doctors at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City told the family she had only a few more days to live, so the plan was to release her to be with her family and friends.

But Taylor passed away Tuesday morning at the hospital, with her parents, DeAnne and Dan Heersche, at her side.

Instead of the parade, Mulvane residents gathered for a candlelight vigil late Tuesday to honor the Mulvane High School sophomore, the Eagle reported.

“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, according to the Eagle.

“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.”

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"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,"  Maggie Keys, one of Taylor's classmates, was quoted as saying by KWCH-TV.

Taylor, a sophomore at Mulvane High School, was diagnosed with the leukemia in May 2008 when she was 10.

Taylor's leukemia had been in remission for several years following chemotherapy. But last winter the cancer returned aggressively.

Services are Sunday at Central Community Church in Wichita, with a private burial Monday.

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