Holland Christian deals with 4th death in a year

Cassie Delf, 13, died the day after being diagnosed with leukemia

Cassie Delf
Holland Christian student Cassie Delf's locker is covered with notes following her sudden death. (May 1, 2017)


HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The Holland Christian Schools community is reeling after a 13-year-old girl died the day after she was diagnosed with a rare type of leukemia.

Cassanda Delf’s is the fourth death of a Holland Christian student or staff member in less than a year.

“Cassie was having headaches for about a year or so,” explained Holland Christian Schools Superintendent Dan Meester. “But despite running numerous, numerous tests there had been no definitive diagnosis until last week.”

On Wednesday, Cassie’s parents learned she had a rare form of leukemia called chronic myeloid leukemia. According to the National Cancer Institute, it’s very rare in children. The median age of diagnosis is 64.

The day after she was diagnosed, the teen who loved animals and the arts was dead.

“She had a nice tight and small group of friends that called her a ‘Sassy, Classy Cassie,'” Meester said.

Friends and classmates covered her locker with notes and pictures to say goodbye.

Cassie played the clarinet in the school band. During a Tulip Time parade, the marching band will play a tribute to her.

It’s the fourth heartbreaking loss within a year for Holland Christian.

“I’ve never heard of another K-12 organization that has had to go through so many of these in the same year,” Meester said.

In June 2016, before school started, high school student Riley Hoeksema, 16, died in Lake Michigan after a boating accident. In September, Kevin Witte, a social studies and Bible teacher as well as a soccer coach, was killed in a freak car crash when a pole being carried by another vehicle pierced his car and hit him. He was 37. In March, elementary school student Caroline Kanis died of a brain tumor. She was 9.

“We crave explanation. We want to know why stuff like this happens and the reality is we are not going to know why — on this side of heaven, anyway. And so we know that promised to us is that life will be difficult, that there will be these moments, incredible chaos and challenge that throw us for a loop,” Meester said. “But we also know and felt that God is always walking there with us.”

Cassie Delf’s funeral is Wednesday. Holland Christian Middle and High schools will be closed so students can attend.