Pennsylvania Boy Dies Just a Day after Celebrating His 6th Birthday: ‘It’s So Unfair’

A little boy woke up to ring in his birthday with a massive celebration that involved gifts, cake, and fireworks. He spent the whole day playing games and watching his favorite cartoons. But as time passed, he began feeling different. What happened the next day changed his family’s life most unexpectedly.


Childhood is a beautiful phase that every parent wishes to cherish with every fiber of their being. Seeing your little ones gradually grow up and meet their milestones is a feeling that cannot be put into words.

Parents can indeed go to any lengths to ensure their kids’ safety, even if it means jeopardizing their own lives, as they cannot bear the sight of their children in pain or suffering. Sadly, the family in our story went through a painstakingly similar scenario. Take a look at their tear-jerking tale of love, loss, and grief.

The Knechtles

Jenna Henn Knechtle and Tobias Knechtle lived in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. They were parents to three adorable boys, Channing, Bentley, and Ryder. The family of five enjoyed every moment and lived life to the fullest. They welcomed each day with open arms and loving hearts.

After spending a fun-filled day with his loved ones surrounded by cake, gifts, and fireworks, it was finally time to say goodbye.
The couple loved their three bundles of joy immensely and never missed a chance to dote on them. Life was nearly perfect for the Knechtles, and they hoped to spend many more happy and worthwhile years together as a family.

A Playful Little Boy

Jenna and Tobias’s lives pleasantly changed when they welcomed Ryder into their hearts and home on September 21, 2016. He was a playful and active kid who adored his two big brothers, loved playing in his creek, and was fond of dressing up as his favorite superhero.

Little Ryder was a source of pure joy and light for his family — Captain America and Spiderman were his favorite superheroes. On many occasions, the youngster wore his superhero suits, determined to save the world from the bad guys.

The little boy was loved and cherished by his parents, older siblings, and everyone who met him. He enjoyed goofing around with his partner-in-crime — his tiny four-legged buddy, Sadie Mae. Ryder loved being spoilt by his loved ones and cracked the funniest jokes.

The Sad Diagnosis

Ryder’s family described him as a collector because he had his own collection of various nail colors that he loved using on himself and his loved ones. He had a warm and infectious smile and a heart of gold that overflowed with love for everyone. Undoubtedly, he was one-of-a-kind.

In mid-2020, the Knechtles received a piece of nerve-wracking news. According to a post on GoFundMe by family friend Stacy McGregor, a brain tumor was discovered on his brain stem after some noticeable changes in his vision. Ryder was only three years old at the time.


Even more tragic was that the cancerous tumor, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), was terminal. Following the heart-shattering diagnosis, the Knechtle family was utterly devastated, but they tried their best to focus on creating beautiful memories with their ray of sunshine.

A True Fighter

The Knechtles didn’t let the painful diagnosis keep them from cherishing their time with their sweet boy. While his treatment continued, they ensured their lovely boy always felt special and loved.

Per McGregor, Ryder’s brothers were oblivious to the full extent of his ailment because their parents wanted them to enjoy their time with him. Since his 2020 diagnosis, the little boy has fought his life’s battles like a true warrior.

Heartbreaking News

Ryder’s family created a Facebook page, Rally for Ryder, to share regular updates on their boy’s condition and rally support for him. On September 15, 2022, parents Jenna and Tobias shared a piece of heartbreaking news.

They said their baby boy’s MRI didn’t look good, and despite the doctors’ best efforts, they had no choice but to prepare themselves for the worst. “Our hearts are beyond repair and completely shattered into dust. We have no idea how we’ll ever pick up the pieces,” wrote Jenna.

The Devastated Mother

“I always hoped Ryder would be the One. The miracle! And he showed so much promise in the beginning,” said Jenna.

The sad mother further stated that while she was broken, a part of her was relieved that her boy would be with the angels and one day, they’ll be together again. She also expressed:

“I would give absolutely anything to hear his voice one last time. To feel a Ryder squeezer around my neck. To watch him play with his brothers. To hear him say ‘I Love you Mom.’ To play just one more game of Uno. Things you take for granted everyday are the saddest when they’re lost.”


A Painful Struggle

Jenna noted how incredibly hard it was for her and Tobias to be strong for their other children. She requested people to keep her little boy in their prayers and said her heart still hoped for a miracle. In a second update on September 20, the shattered mother said her son was slowing down.

She thanked the hospice staff for giving the best care to little Ryder and added that he was on Team Sunflower. Jenna said the whole family smothered him with extra love, hugs, and kisses, read him his favorite books, and kept him company. She added:

“We want him at peace but we can’t imagine a day without him. It’s an awful feeling.”

Happy Birthday

The Wernersville resident said Ryder’s older brothers were extremely sad and worried for him and struggled to cope with things. Despite what lay ahead for them as a family, the Knechtles decided to celebrate Ryder’s sixth birthday and make it a memorable day.

When he woke up in the morning, he played games with his brothers, read his favorite book, and watched “Peppa Pig” with his family. But as more time passed, he began feeling different. When the hospice team tended to him, they reportedly told his family that he didn’t have much time.

Heaven Gained an Angel

After spending a fun-filled day with his loved ones surrounded by cake, gifts, and fireworks, it was finally time to say goodbye. The Knechtles revealed that their son passed away surrounded by his loved ones on September 22. In a Facebook post shared on September 23, Jenna stated:

“My beautiful baby is now an angel. We think Ryder held on for his 6th birthday bc he passed the day after it! I don’t think that was a coincidence at all. He wanted those presents, cake, and fireworks! I’m so glad we got to do that for him! (sic)”

The Little Cop

Several people shared heartfelt tributes for the late youngster. The Hamburg Police Force also showed support for the grief-stricken family and said they were saddened by Ryder’s loss, who had been sworn in as a special police officer in June 2022 by Mayor George Holmes.

The Spring Township Police Department also shared a touching post for the late boy, “He may not have apprehended any bad guys, but he sure apprehended the hearts and love of so many! Rest in Peace little buddy.”

The Mountain Springs Campground said they were devastated to lose their beloved Officer Ryder. They wrote, “Today is a sad day. Our Officer Ryder passed away last night. This is extremely hard on us, so we ask that you limit the questions as we process this loss.”

Remembering the Youngster

Jennifer Capone mentioned that she was heartbroken to lose Ryder. She added, “It’s so unfair… We will forever remember him, say his name, and keep him alive in everything we do.”

Michelle Seyler-Huey shared the Knechtle family’s pain and hailed their parenting. She wrote:

“Thank you for holding [Ryder’s] hand, wiping his tears, giving him extra hugs, loving him unconditionally. Thank you for giving each and every one of us the opportunity to meet Ryder and witness his smile that will forever be in our hearts.”

Honoring Their Boy

According to an online obituary, little Ryder’s funeral will be held on Wednesday, September 28, at 12:00 p.m. in Bean Funeral Home, Penn Avenue. In a Facebook post shared on September 24, the Knechtles urged people to donate to Elle’s Angels, a foundation dedicated to finding a cure for DIPG. Jenna stated:

“We have one really important request…. Please do not wear black! Please wear bright vibrant colors that would have showed off his huge personality. Feel free to wear a superhero shirt or his Rally for Ryder shirts.”

The Knechtles also thanked everyone who had sent them love and support in their difficult time. The GoFundMe page created for Ryder in 2020 gained traction following his tragic demise. As of September 26, 0ver $99,000 have been raised of the $100,000 goal.

Rest in Peace

We send our deepest condolences to the Knechtles in their time of sheer pain and sorrow. May God heal their broken hearts and give them the courage to go on without their sweet boy. Fly high, little cop, and keep watch over your family from the heavens.


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