Cancer "warrior" Kennedy Griffith, 16, taught us so much - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

"Warrior" Kennedy Griffith, 16, taught us so much

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Kennedy Elizabeth Griffith 1996-2012 Kennedy Elizabeth Griffith 1996-2012

MARION COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- After a valiant battle with a rare form of bone cancer, 16-year-old Kennedy Elizabeth Griffith passed away Tuesday.  But not before leaving an indelible impression on people she had touched during her three-and-a-half year ordeal. 

First diagnosed in April 2009 with osteosarcoma (defined as a malignant bone tumor that usually develops during the period of rapid growth that occurs in adolescence), Kennedy endured countless surgeries, treatments, and the amputation of a leg.  On numerous occasions, she confounded medical experts who had given her months, or even weeks to live. 

Her incredible resilience was matched only by her positive attitude.  Friends and family describe a smiling, determined teen girl who had strong opinions on her treatment options, and who wasn't the least bit shy about expressing herself.

During her illness, friends and strangers followed Kennedy's journey on Facebook and Caring Bridge websites.  Her father, Dr. Mark Griffith is superintendent of Marion County Schools.  He told Eyewitness News that he received encouragement on a daily basis from all over the nation.  In football-crazy Marion County, where the towns of South Pittsburg, Jasper and Whitwell are famous for gridiron rivalries, the competition faded away when the subject of Kennedy Griffith came up.  "She brought this county together," Griffith said.  "When we brought her home from Texas this year, everybody showed up to support her.  I can't say enough about Marion County people.  You have no idea how much they brightened her spirit."

The same could be said for strangers, from thousands of miles away.  Some were fellow cancer patients, others merely heard of her illness via social media.  "People would call me every day to ask how she was doing," Griffith said.  "Other superintendents from around the state would check on her like she was a member of their family."

In recent months, as Kennedy's condition worsened, her wide network of classmates, in and out of Marion County rallied to her support.  She handled the official coin toss at a Marion County High School football game to a rousing ovation.  Her classmates at Chattanooga's Baylor School held a pep rally in her honor.  Although she was unable to attend, she saw video and photographs from the enthusiastic event.

In recent days, Kennedy's family got word that the end was near.  Griffith gave high praise to the staff at T.C. Thompson Childrens Hospital, which he said, "held our hands for the last few days.  They told us how she would leave, peacefully and pain-free, and that's exactly what happened.  We were at her side."  He said the cancer had finally spread throughout her body, "except for her brain, that is what we were told."

Former classmates at Marion County High School, who had grown up with Kennedy, took the news hard on Tuesday morning.  They expressed their feelings by sharing written memories, which they placed in a box that will be presented to the Griffith family.

"She was the toughest person I've ever known," her father said. "Sometimes I'd get teary-eyed, and she would just look at me and tell me not to worry, that she was in God's hands.  The way we look at it, she fought hard, and today she won the battle."

It's never easy to understand the death of someone so young, but in Kennedy's case, she sure made us appreciate the value and meaning of life. -  David Carroll  dcarroll@wrcbtv.com

Here is the obituary for Kennedy Griffith:

Kennedy "The Warrior" Elizabeth Griffith,16, fought her final battle and went home to be to Jesus on Tuesday, December 18, 2012.

Kennedy was born October 9, 1996 and was a 9th grader at Marion County High School.

She leaves to cherish her memory her mother, Pamela Wells Griffith; father and step-mother, Mark Griffith and Amy; brother, Tyler Moore; sisters, Shelby Moore, Kolbe and Hagan Lacey Griffith; grandparents, Mamie Lou Wells and Hebert Wells Jr. and Wayne and Toni Griffith; special aunt, Jan Coffelt as well as other aunts, uncles and cousins.

Funeral services will be conducted from the gym of Marion County High School, at 1:00 pm CST, on Friday, December 21, 2012.

Interment will follow in Pine Grove Cemetery in Jasper, Tennessee.

The family will receive friends, at the funeral home from 9:00 am until 9:00 pm CST, on Thursday, December 20, 2012.

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