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After this Pittsburgh sports fan died, her grandfather wrote a letter to the Pirates

| Sunday, April 23, 2017, 11:24 p.m.
Kiersten Lee Kandul at a softball game with her grandfather Glenn Kweder in May 2013.
Courtesy of the family
Kiersten Lee Kandul at a softball game with her grandfather Glenn Kweder in May 2013.
Kiersten Lee Kandul at a Cystic Fibrosis walk with her grandfather Glenn Kweder in May 2014.
Courtesy of the family
Kiersten Lee Kandul at a Cystic Fibrosis walk with her grandfather Glenn Kweder in May 2014.
Kiersten Lee Kandul in her softball uniform in April 2013
Courtesy of the family
Kiersten Lee Kandul in her softball uniform in April 2013
Kiersten Lee Kandul had her sweet 16 party in Pittsburgh in May 2014.
Courtesy of the family
Kiersten Lee Kandul had her sweet 16 party in Pittsburgh in May 2014.
Kiersten Lee Kandul with her grandfather Glenn Kweder at Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNV Park in July 2013.
Courtesy of the family
Kiersten Lee Kandul with her grandfather Glenn Kweder at Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNV Park in July 2013.
Kiersten Lee Kandul on a beach vacation in 2010.
Kiersten Lee Kandul on a beach vacation in 2010.
Pittsburgh Pirates sent a letter of condolence for Kiersten Lee Kandul in June 2016.
Courtesy of the family
Pittsburgh Pirates sent a letter of condolence for Kiersten Lee Kandul in June 2016.

Glenn Kweder wrote the letter with no expectations.

He did not expect a response. The act of writing was simply a form of therapy.

"Her name was Kiersten Lee Kandul," he wrote. "She was my first and closest grandchild. I'm writing this letter not to ask for anything but as a way of keeping my granddaughter's memory alive."

Kiersten loved Pittsburgh's sports teams.

Though she was from Virginia, she spent so much time in hospitals here that the black and gold became as much a part of her life as her illness.

"She battled Cystic Fibrosis all of her life," Kweder wrote. "She died before we had a chance to take her to see a Steeler or Penguin game."

But they made it to PNC Park, three times.

In one game, against the Nationals, Josh Harrison hit a late home run to tie up the score. Kiersten was so excited that she shook in herwheelchair. The Nats won in the 9th inning, but Kweder forever retained that memory: J-Hay circling the bases, the crowd roaring and his beautiful, sick granddaughter smiling in disbelief.

"She was so looking forward to seeing her teams at Heinz, PNC and Consol," Kweder wrote. "I thought I had more time to make that happen."

Despite a life of illness, she made the most of her time here.

She went to prom, made friends easily and played sports. She was a great hitter and she played softball "until she just didn't have the wind anymore" to run to first, Kweder recalled. But even when she couldn't run, she could hit.

"Last May she contracted a serious lung infection," Kweder continued in the letter. "They couldn't save her and she passed away on the early morning of May 25th 2015."

He included photos of her: Holding a Terrible Towel, with a Pirates-themed birthday cake, wearing a Penguins jersey.

In every image but one, she is smiling and wearing Pittsburgh sports gear.

The lone exception is the photo of her tombstone:

Kiersten L. Kandul

February 13, 1998

May 25, 2015

"Let Me Live …

Let Me Breathe …

In God's Loving Arms."

"I hope that someone in your organization will read this and perhaps remember the name of Kiersten Lee Kandul, a big fan of the Black & Gold," Kweder wrote. "Thank you for your time."

He mailed the letters with no expectations. He did not expect a response. It was "like throwing a message in a bottle in the ocean," Kweder said. Nothing more.

Michelle Capobianco got the message.

As Community Relations Director for the Pirates, she gets many letters like Kweder's.

But something about this letter set it apart, she said.

"The pictures," she said. "You see a letter and you don't really put a face to the name. But since he sent all those pictures it as very hard to ignore. She was so darn cute. ... And there was the tombstone."

Capobianco wrote back, pledging to donate $250 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

"We feel so honored to know Kiersten was a loyal fan of the Pirates," she wrote. "I am sure her story touched so many people just as it has touched us."

The money helped Kweder and his family in their ongoing goal of raising money in Kiersten's honor. On May 6, they will participate in another Cystic Fibrosis Walk, in Alexandria, Virginia, as team "Kiersten's Breath for Life."

"I know a lot of people have had tragedies in their lives and lost people, and unfortunately a lot of those people get forgotten," Kweder said. "When I go to the cemetery to see Kiersten, I see tombstones and it's obvious that no one has been there for years and years.

"I do not want that to happen to my granddaughter. I don't want her to be forgotten. I want as many people as possible to know about this beautiful girl."

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