Hunter Kelly, 8, dies of Krabbe Disease

Updated: August 6, 2005, 10:10 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Hunter Kelly, whose battle with a fatal nervous system disease inspired his Hall of Fame father Jim Kelly's charitable works, died Friday morning. He was 8.

"Our prayers go to the family and kids," Jim Kelly's brother, Dan, told The Associated Press.

Born in 1997, Hunter Kelly was given no more than three years to live after being diagnosed with Krabbe Disease, an inherited degenerative disorder of the central and peripheral nervous systems. The disease hinders development of the myelin sheath, a fatty covering that protects the brain's nerve fibers.

In honor of their son, Jim Kelly and his wife, Jill, established the Hunter's Hope Foundation in 1997, which has raised more than $6 million and awarded more than $3.8 million to leukodystrophy and other neurological disease-related research.

The disease has no known cure.

Jim Kelly, who won an unprecedented four straight AFC titles as the Bills' quarterback in the early 1990s, had credited his son for serving as his inspiration after he retired from football following the 1996 season.

"He'll never be able to do what daddy did," Kelly said last year. "But he's going to do greater things. He's going to make a difference in kids' lives. He already has."

Kelly and his son shared the same birthday, Valentine's Day.

The Jim Kelly family issued this press release from the Kelly for Kids Foundation:

Hunter James Kelly entered Heaven this morning, Friday, August 5, 2005. Hunter, the beloved 8½ year old son of Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly and his wife Jill, staged a valiant life-long battle with Krabbe Leukodystrophy. Hunter was the longest living survivor of infantile Krabbe disease and served as an inspiration to thousands of other children and their families. The Hunter's Hope Foundation was founded in his name to fund research into the fatal disease and to offer hope and support to its victims worldwide.

Jim and Jill Kelly remain grateful for your continued prayers and support and ask that you respect their privacy as they mourn the sudden loss of their beloved son and offer comfort to his sisters Erin and Camryn.

The Kelly Family would also like to thank everyone who has and will continue to uphold their family through prayer and support of the Hunter's Hope Foundation. It is the family's hope that all who mourn for their son, Hunter would join them in thanking the Lord for his precious life.

In lieu of flowers, please consider sending a donation to the Hunter's Hope Foundation (Hunter's Hope Foundation PO BOX 643, Orchard Park, NY 14127.)

The Kelly family has requested a private family viewing.

A celebration of Hunter Kelly's life will be held on Tuesday, August 9, 2005 at 1 p.m. at the Wesleyan Church of Hamburg, N.Y.

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