A 3-year-old girl who died Saturday at Monkey Joe’s in Matthews succumbed to natural causes, say police. Specifically, she suffered from a rare genetic defect in which the heart did not form properly, officials said Tuesday.
The girl has been identified as Erin Shardè Washington, the daughter of Eric and Nykeshia Washington. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses
“She was the most hilarious little girl,” says a statement on the GoFundMe account. “Although she was only 3 years old, she touched more lives than people who live to be 100.”
The statement goes on to say the family needs help with the financial burden of the funeral so it can focus on grieving. “Anything helps whether it's though donating, sharing or simply just praying for them.” The account had surpassed its $4,000 goal Tuesday morning, raising $8,545, along with heartfelt messages from many of the 173 donors.
“I wanted you guys to know that I was across the hall from you in the ER,” wrote donor Amy Purser. “We could hear your cries. We didn't know what was going on but we knew you were hurting bad. Since the news has broke, we were able to put the puzzle pieces into place. I wanted to hug all of you as we were leaving.”
Wrote donor Amy Todd: “God needed an angel as precious as your little Erin.”
“She was a beautiful, funny and danced all the time,” said donor Tacara Foster.
Matthews police said someone called 911 about a girl “in distress” at 4:53 p.m. on Saturday, according to the Observer’s news partner, WBTV. The girl was taken to a hospital and later died. Her identity has not been officially released by police.
Monkey Joe’s is a play and party area for children. The company’s Website says trained staff observe all play areas but parents are encouraged to monitor their children at all times. There are separate play areas for children 3 and younger.
On Sunday, Monkey Joe’s released a statement: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of a young child in our facility yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with this child’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
Sunday evening the company told WBTV that the child was “not in distress on an inflatable or engaging in any arcade games.”
A spokesperson for Monkey Joe's also said they didn't know the cause of the 3-year-old's death, but added that police were investigating.
“We have provided full support to the police and the family of the child,” the spokesperson told WBTV.