A devastated family is hoping to inspire teens to be compassionate towards each other after their bullied daughter tragically died by suicide this year.
Parents Cheryl and Hunter Brown told FOX affiliate WTVT that their beloved daughter McKenna was the “glue” that kept their family together.
“She just, she brought everybody in and connected everybody. She was the glue that held a lot of groups together, including our family,” said Hunter. “She lit everything up when she walked in a room. Hilarious. Witty,” added Cheryl. The Florida couple revealed that McKenna took the drastic step on August 7, just days before her senior year commenced.
McKenna, a hockey player at the school, had allegedly been the target of cyberbullying as well as “physical, sexual, emotional abuse,” Cheryl and Hunter told the news station.
“She made a couple mistakes,”Hunter said, before claiming his daughter had been “blackmailed”and “bullied.”
“She was broken,” he continued. “She was hurt. She was alone. She felt like she didn’t belong, but she chose to suffer in silence because she never said, ‘I need help.’ “
The Browns appeared on a Dr. Phil episode on Tuesday to share the details surrounding their daughter’s bullying, which they only became aware of once teammates came forward about the toxic behavior after Brown’s funeral service on Aug. 13.
McKenna‘s parents subsequently discovered several bullying messages from her teammates over the course of five days. These players even shared information regarding an alleged rape McKenna had experienced years before.
According to reports, the three female bullies have not been identified publicly due to their young age.
More details of this chronic bullying from AWM:
The bullying began after McKenna and the other girls ran into one of the girl’s ex-boyfriends at the beach. The boy started “flirting” with McKenna, and so McKenna asked her friend if it was okay with her if she spoke to the boy. Her mom said that the friend initially told McKenna that it was totally fine that she speak to the boy but grew jealous when the pair started chatting.
Afterward, McKenna received a “barrage of texts and phone calls from the girl,” the Browns told Dr. Phil.
“McKenna had asked the one friend/teammate if she’d mind if she talked to her ex-boyfriend from two years earlier, and she said it was okay,” Cheryl told Fox 13. “She then realized a few days later that it wasn’t okay with a friend based on how she retaliated.”
McKenna apologized to her friend for “crossing the line.” She then discussed the bullying with her mother, who her daughter said was her “best friend.” When the Browns went to dinner later that night, McKenna saw a social media post from the other girls that showed them all together without McKenna. Her “face went white,” Cheryl said.
The next morning, Cheryl entered McKenna’s room and found the teen “face down” on the floor.
“I thought she was sleeping. I went over to her and went to turn her over, and she was cold and stiff, and I knew that she was gone,” the mother told Dr. Phil.
McKenna left a “thoughtful” suicide note that failed to identify the culprits, but her mother “knew that it had to have had something to do with these girls.”
Despite her struggles, the 16-year-old used sports as an outlet and became a star goalie on her high school hockey team. Her parents said within the last two years, McKenna had developed a passion for the sport and wanted to take things to the next level.
She participated in competitions across the country, making a name for herself in women’s sports. A few weeks before her death, McKenna’s parents said, she was excited when she discovered that the University of South Florida was launching a women’s hockey team. McKenna ultimately had plans to take her hockey career to the collegiate level after high school.
Her coach, Brett Ebert, took to Facebook after McKenna’s death and shared a loving tribute to her, one of his shining stars on the ice.
“The world lost a beautiful soul way too soon. I still don’t want to believe it is real. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Brown family. Rest Easy McKenna, you may be gone, but your legacy will live on forever in our hearts. ❤️ #kindnessmatters,” he wrote in the post.
Watch the video below for more details: