Michigan State University's men's basketball team lost its biggest fan on Wednesday when 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth died following a two-year battle against cancer. She was so close to the Spartan's Adreian Payne that the two regularly exchanged texts.
The St. Johns, Mich., girl's brave fight against a fetal-nerve cell cancer known as neuroblastoma, and her bond with MSU's basketball team made national headlines. She first bonded with the team when players visited her two years ago at Lansing's Sparrow Hospital.
The Holsworth family announced her death early Wednesday morning on Instagram. “Princess Lacey has achieved the ultimate victory. She now dances among angels.... The world is a better place because you were in it. Our hearts are broken. We love you Doll. Dance all night... Mommy and Daddy, Will, Mitchell, and Luke.”
Her father, Matt Holsworth, said that a memorial service is planned for April 17 at MSU's Breslin Center in East Lansing.
By mid-morning, the hashtag “#LoveLikeLacey” dominated Twitter, as fans and admirers expressed their condolences. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, said he was devastated over Lacey’s death.
“I’m supposed to be a guy who leads men, and now an 8-year-old has impacted my life like this…the impact on all of us will be lasting, and that’s especially true for Adreian,” Izzo said.
— Adreian Payne (@Adreian_Payne) January 9, 2014
ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said that he plans to donate $250,000 toward cancer research in Lacey’s name. “I can’t believe it,” a sobbing Vitale said. “This rips my heart out, man.”
Over the past few months, the Spartans endeavored to bring Lacey as much joy as she brought to them. She attended the team’s senior night game as Payne’s guest, and she helped the Spartans in March cut down the nets after their Big Ten tournament victory in Indianapolis. At each event, Payne was at his young friend’s side.
Izzo said that he had talked to Payne around 7 a.m. EDT about Lacey’s death. “Even though he knew it was inevitable, it’s hard,” Izzo told the Detroit Free Press. “But he took it with the class and dignity that she taught him. I told him, ‘Not everybody gets to touch somebody’s life like you have. And sometimes other people impact your life, too.’”
In a segment filmed by the Big Ten Network in March, Payne described his relationship with Lacey. “She has taught me to fight through everything, to always continue to have a smile on my face, even when things are going wrong.”