Emma Mertens (Photo courtesy of Emma Loves Dogs)

By Shereen Siewert

An 8-year-old Wisconsin girl with an inoperable brain tumor who received tens of thousands of pictures of her favorite animals from strangers — and inspired a foundation to support animals — has died at age 8.

Emma Mertens (Photo courtesy of Emma Loves Dogs)

Emma Mertens had a passion for animals, especially dogs. On her birthdays, Emma would ask for donations to local animal shelters instead of receiving birthday gifts. And on Aug. 30, Emma’s 8th birthday, parents Geoff and Tammy Mertens officially launched the Emma Loves Dogs Foundation.

“This year we are taking Emma’s generosity and passion for animals to a whole new level,” her parents announced in August.

Emma Loves Dogs’ mission is to offer financial support to organizations that share Emma’s passion for helping animals, such as police K9 units and no-kill animal shelters. The Mertens set a goal of raising $500,000 to fulfill Emma’s wishes so she can leave a lasting impact for years to come. in September the foundation made its first gift — a protective vest for the Racine County Sheriff’s Department K-9 officer, Stax.

Emma’s love of dogs inspired thousands of people around the world to send photos, letters and gifts. And in March 40 police dogs and their handlers from around Wisconsin paid a special visit to Emma at her Hartland home. She was made an honorary member of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Canine Handlers Association and received the Youth Community Kindness Award from HAWS for her contribution to the Humane Society.

Emma Mertens (Photo courtesy of Emma Loves Dogs)

Her family says Emma lost her battle with cancer Sunday afternoon, according to The Associated Press.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

All photos courtesy of Emma Loves Dogs