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Girl, 10, dies after beach tragedy

For two days and two nights, the family and friends of 10-year-old Bethany Rose Morgan prayed at her bedside, sang her songs and gently touched her body as she clung to life at Women & Children's Hospital.

Wednesday, two days after she was knocked over by a wave and failed to resurface while swimming in the Lake Erie waters off Woodlawn Beach, Bethany passed away. She was a few weeks shy of turning 11.

"Someone was always with her," said the family's pastor, the Rev. Margaret Reid of the Unity Southtowns Church in Orchard Park. "We wanted her to know she wasn't there by herself."

Now, the small church of about 50 people on Southwestern Boulevard, who only came to know Bethany this past Easter Sunday, is making sure her family is not alone.

A Sunday service at the church will be dedicated to Bethany's memory followed by a pot luck meal to support Bethany's mother, Suzanne Morgan, her older sister, Katie, and younger brother, Eliot. Mrs. Morgan is working part time. The family has no health insurance.

A fund to assist the family, who moved to the area this spring from San Francisco, has been set up. Donations to the Bethany Rose Morgan Fund can be made at any Bank of America branch in Erie or Niagara counties. Donors also may mail contributions to the bank's branches.

Bethany was rescued shortly before 3:45 p.m. Monday by a lifeguard and another person at the beach. She was not breathing and registered only a faint pulse after she was brought to shore, according to Town of Hamburg police reports.

Suzanne Morgan, a single woman who felt called to be a mother, adopted all three of her children, including Bethany, Reid said. Bethany, who was of Polynesian descent, was adopted in Hawaii just after her birth in 1996.

The Morgans regularly attended Sunday services at Unity Church and often visited the church to help garden there, Reid said. The "garden party" -- as Bethany had affectionately named it -- always ended with some ice cream sandwiches, Reid recalled.

"It was at that time I really got to know her," she said. "The children are just amazing children. Bethany was just such an incredible deep and kind child."

And even her death won't be able to stop that kindness, Reid said.

Bethany's corneas and valves to her heart will be donated for transplant in other children.

"To [Suzanne], it meant Bethany would live on somewhere, somehow in someone else," Reid said.

e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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