9-year-old Hiawatha girl unexpectedly dies from flu

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Leighya Delong, Picture from Nykki Sell

HIAWATHA, Kan. (KSNT) – A 9-year-old girl from Hiawatha died this week after contracting the flu, according to her family.

Family of Leighya Marie DeLong said she was diagnosed with the flu last Saturday, while visiting family for the holiday in Lincoln, Nebraska. When her condition worsened they took her to the hospital, where she passed away on Monday, December 23rd.

In a facebook post, her mother Odessa Kirkendoll remembered Leighya writing, “We were blessed with the most beautiful, outgoing, loving, smart, caring, stubborn little girl. She lit up any room with her presence. We can’t express how thankful we are for all the support from everyone. I’m heartbroken.”

Leighya’s grandmother, Cherryl DeLong, said Leighya and her mom and brother had only recently moved to Kansas.

Hiawatha School District Superintendent Lonnie Moser confirmed that Leighya was a 4th grader at Hiawatha Elementary School.

“Her smile and positive attitude were impactful and she will be deeply missed,” Moser said.

Moser said that there will be resources available for students and staff as they cope with the loss.

There has been a fundraiser set up in Leighya’s name. You can find that here.

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