Bailey Leon, the young girl from Rayne battling pediatric cancer who Saints coach Sean Payton honored during New Orleans’ 31-15 win at Chicago on Monday night, died Thursday at Ochsner Hospital, her family said. She was 12.
Bailey was a devoted fan of the Saints and Payton, with whom she developed a friendship after meeting him. Payton caught up with Bailey two days before the Saints won in Chicago, and he promised her a game ball.
During the Saints’ victory, Payton wore a pink “B” on the jacket and visor he had on out at Soldier Field in support of Bailey.
“A girl we are going to bring the game ball to has a sickness back home — she’s pretty amazing,” Payton said of Leon after Monday night’s win. “I knew she was going to be watching (on television). Hopefully, we will get back at a decent hour and tomorrow I can drop by and bring it to her. I told her it would be muddy. It looked pretty clean though.”
When news that Bailey had died Thursday spread across the media, Saints fans on Twitter urged their team to beat the archrival Falcons in New Orleans on Sunday in memory of the girl, who had been fighting neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that often affects infants and young children. They did so under the hashtag #WinItForBailey.
The Saints can clinch a division title and a playoff berth if they beat Atlanta and Carolina loses to Cleveland.
Bailey’s survivors include her mother, Brooke Elizabeth Leon Reed; her stepfather, Cody; her father, Coby Abshire; a sister, Ellie Reed; and two brothers, Aiden and Seth Reed.
“She was truly an old soul that taught so many lessons about life and love,” Bailey’s family said in an obituary. “She was the best daughter, sister and friend anyone could ask for.”
There will be a visitation at Gossen Funeral Home in Rayne from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
The funeral will be 1:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Rayne. She will be buried at Leger Cemetery.
Gary Estwick contributed to this report.