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Michigan State fans, rival teams unite in mourning death of 8-year-old 'Princess Lacey'

Published: Thursday, April 10 2014 8:28 p.m. MDT

Early Wednesday morning, the family of 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth, also known as Princess Lacey, announced the passing of their daughter Tuesday night after a long battle with neuroblastoma. (Miss Princess Lacey Instagram account) Early Wednesday morning, the family of 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth, also known as Princess Lacey, announced the passing of their daughter Tuesday night after a long battle with neuroblastoma. (Miss Princess Lacey Instagram account)

Early Wednesday morning, the family of 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth, also known as Princess Lacey, announced the passing of their daughter Tuesday night after a long battle with neuroblastoma.

"Princess Lacey has achieved the ultimate victory. She now dances among angels," the Instagram post stated.

"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 #LoveLikeLacey."

Lacey will be missed by not only her family but also by those who came to consider her family.

For the past two years, Michigan State basketball player Adreian Payne has considered himself Lacey's older brother. After the two met during one of Lacey's stays in the hospital, they were like brother and sister.

Payne visited his Lacey in the hospital, joined her for fundraising events and brought her to his basketball games. Lacey quickly became Payne's closest friend, and she now holds a special place in the hearts of the Michigan State basketball team members and the team's fans.

MSU basketball player Adreian Payne leaves a message for Lacey Holsworth on Wednesday night, April 9, 2014, in East Lansing, Mich., where he and other people gathered along the banks of the Red Cedar River on the campus of Michigan State University. The little girl affectionately known as MSU basketball player Adreian Payne leaves a message for Lacey Holsworth on Wednesday night, April 9, 2014, in East Lansing, Mich., where he and other people gathered along the banks of the Red Cedar River on the campus of Michigan State University. The little girl affectionately known as "Princess Lacey" finally succumbed to the cancer that she battled since 2011. Her father, Matt Holsworth, said Lacey died at their home late Tuesday "with her mommy and daddy holding her in their arms." Lacey met Payne during one of her hospital stays, and their friendship quickly blossomed. The little girl became known to legions of basketball fans, cheering on Payne and the Spartans on Twitter as they became a popular pick to win it all this season. (AP Photo/Lansing State Journal, Matthew Dae Smith) (Matthew Dae Smith, AP)

"Words can't express how much I already miss Lacey," Payne said in a statement issued by Michigan State University on April 9.

"She is my sister and will always be a part of my life. She taught me how to fight through everything with a smile on my face, even when things were going wrong. I'm a better man because of her. She said she first liked me because of my smile, but it's her smile that made America fall in love with her. I know she's smiling and dancing in heaven right now. My princess is now an angel."

On Wednesday night, Payne, basketball coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State students gathered for a candlelight vigil in memory of Lacey.

Although most had never met her, Lacey inspired many with her smile and positive attitude. The young girl had more than 38,000 followers on Twitter.

"Getting to know her made my life better. I hope it made your life better," Izzo said at the vigil.

MSU kinesiology junior Danielle Bott paints on MSU kinesiology junior Danielle Bott paints on "the Rock" where over 100 gathered along the banks of the Red Cedar river on the campus of Michigan State University, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, to honor the legacy of "Princess Lacey" Holsworth, of St. Johns. The 8-year-old lost her battle with cancer Tuesday evening, April 8, 2014. Holsworth's battle has been nationally publicized due to her close relationship with her "adopted big brother," MSU senior center Adreian Payne, the MSU men's basketball team, and the Spartan community. (AP Photo/Lansing State Journal, Matthew Dae Smith) (Matthew Dae Smith, AP)

Following the announcement of Lacey's death, many — including the university's rival, Michigan University — expressed sorrow for her family and Michigan State on Twitter.

Early Wednesday morning, the family of 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth, also known as Princess Lacey, announced the passing of their daughter Tuesday night after a long battle with neuroblastoma. (Miss Princess Lacey Instagram account) Early Wednesday morning, the family of 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth, also known as Princess Lacey, announced the passing of their daughter Tuesday night after a long battle with neuroblastoma. (Miss Princess Lacey Instagram account)

Former Detroit coach and longtime ESPN announcer Dick Vitale also had a personal relationship with Lacey. After hearing of her death, Vitale pledged to raise $250,000 for cancer research.

"I was just crushed," Vitale said. "They should take Lacey's picture, and when they define courage, it should have her photo right next to it."

Email: spetersen@deseretnews.com | Twitter: @Sarah_DNews

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