BOSTON (AP) — A 6-year-old Massachusetts girl whose love for Justin Bieber encouraged physicians and nurses at a Boston hospital to organize a pretend wedding to the pop star as she battled a rare brain cancer has died.
The family of Avalanna Routh — who called herself Mrs. Bieber — said on their Twitter account that she died Wednesday morning. "Oh Avalanna, the brightest star — you took our hearts with you, our greatest Love," the family wrote.
During the pretend wedding, Avalanna held a yellow, green and purple bouquet of flowers, wore a T-shirt that said "Future Mrs. Bieber" and stood next to his portrait under a banner that declared them "Just Married." That sparked a social media campaign to help her meet the singer.
Bieber later arranged for the girl to meet him in New York, where they spent a couple of hours together before he tweeted that the experience was inspiring and the best thing he's ever done.
"... she was AWESOME! Feeling really inspired now! (hash)MrsBieber," he tweeted.
Bieber's manager and representatives from his booking agency did not immediately respond to emails Wednesday seeking comment.
Avalanna suffered from an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, a fast-growing tumor of the brain and spinal cord that usually occurs in young children. Only 30 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, said Dr. Charles Robert of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where Avalanna received treatment.
The little girl "was diagnosed when she was 18 months and responded to initial treatment for quite a while, but the cancer kept coming back and ultimately she was no longer responsive" and she passed away at her home in Merrimac, Robert said.
There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements.
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute mourned Routh's death in a statement.
"She was a very courageous young person who lived her life with grace and determination," according to the statement. "By generously sharing her story, she raised awareness worldwide about atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumors and articulated the need for greater research of this rare cancer."