They all thought she was dying of cancer — and they all handed her cash.
Ashley Anne Kirilow, a 23-year-old Burlington native, admits she faked cancer, ran a bogus charity and collected thousands of dollars from hundreds of people.
She shaved her head and eyebrows, plucked her eyelashes and starved herself to look like a chemotherapy patient. She told anyone she met she had been disowned by drug-addicted parents, or that they were dead.
Both parents are alive and well, each in separate marriages with three young children. They both say they did all they could to support their troubled child.
“What I did was wrong,” Ashley said Thursday night. “I was trying to be noticed. I was trying to get my family back together. I didn’t want to feel like I’m nothing anymore. It went wrong, it spread like crazy, and then it seemed like the whole world knew.”
Over the last year, Ashley endeared herself to the all-ages music and skateboard scenes across the GTA and befriended groups of idealistic and energetic teenagers looking for an outlet for their optimism.
They embraced Ashley’s simple cause — pocket change for cancer research — and were inspired by her heartbreaking story. Teams of volunteers organized benefit concerts in her honour, designed T-shirts and made online tribute videos.
“I thought she was an angel,” said Nikki Jumper, 19. “I wanted to be a friend for her because she didn’t seem to have anyone.”
All donations were made in cash and given directly to Ashley in rolls of coins and stuffed envelopes. Nobody asked for a receipt.
The charity was never registered and consisted of little more than a Facebook page
The message here: don't take things at face value, whether it's a chick with no eyebrows who appears to have a convincing sob story or an "interfaith" imam with a construction project who claims to come in peace.