Illinois Rep Sean Casten says daughter Gwen, 17, died ‘peacefully’ after going to bed


Illinois Representative Sean Castin says he doesn’t know how his 17 year-old daughter Gwen died over the weekend, besides the fact she passed away ‘peacefully’ after going to bed.

Castin, a Democrat who represents congressional District 6, shared a statement Wednesday, but offered no further details on how Gwen died.

He wrote: ‘On Sunday night, we had dinner as a family and then she went out with some friends for a few hours. 

‘When she got home, she said goodnight to (wife) Karta and I, texted a friend to make sure sure she got home OK, and didn’t wake up on Monday morning.

‘The only thing we know about her death is that it was peaceful. And the only lesson we can take from that is to savor the moments you have with your loved ones.’

Gwen had only recently graduated from high school, and had been due to begin studying environmental science at the University of Vermont.

Castin highlighted his daughter’s activism, her trumpet skills, and her purpose to fight for causes such as gun control, LGBTQ allyship and Black Lives Matter. 

Illinois Representative Sean Castin (center right) says he doesn’t know how his 17 year-old daughter Gwen (center left) died over the weekend

Castin, a Democrat who represents congressional District 6, shared a statement Wednesday, but offered no further details on how Gwen died

Castin, a Democrat who represents congressional District 6, shared a statement Wednesday, but offered no further details on how Gwen died

Following the news of her death, her high school's Empowerment Club - which she founded - posted a tribute to her on Instagram thanking her for 'everything you have done to influence our lives'

Following the news of her death, her high school’s Empowerment Club – which she founded – posted a tribute to her on Instagram thanking her for ‘everything you have done to influence our lives’

Details about Gwen’s death remain scarce, but after Casten’s office announced her passing on Monday, several of her high school clubs have posted tributes to the teenager who was following in her father’s footsteps by fighting for social causes that she was passionate about, such as gun control. 

The Downers Grove North Empowerment Club, which Gwen founded, for example, posted a photo of her in a blue, floral dress holding a bouquet of flowers, writing: ‘There are no words that can begin to describe the loss we are feeling.

‘Gwen, founder and leader of [the] Empowerment Club, was cherished by all,’ club members wrote. ‘Her hard work, determination and beautiful personality were inspirations to everybody.

‘She was so loved, and her incredible impact will live forever within our community,’ they added. ‘Thank you Gwen, for everything you have done to influence our lives and fill them with love and positivity.

‘You were truly a force to be reckoned with,’ they concluded. ‘We will miss you.’

Illinois Congressman Sean Casten's daughter, Gwen, voiced a campaign ad for her father - which was released just weeks before her death on Monday

Illinois Congressman Sean Casten’s daughter, Gwen, voiced a campaign ad for her father – which was released just weeks before her death on Monday

In the video, Gwen, 17, discusses her father's platform - including that he is fighting for gun control and women's abortion rights

In the video, Gwen, 17, discusses her father’s platform – including that he is fighting for gun control and women’s abortion rights

The video ends with Gwen sitting down for family dinner with her father, mother and sister

The video ends with Gwen sitting down for family dinner with her father, mother and sister

The school’s Asian American-Pacific Islander Student Union also said it was ‘heartbroken over the loss,’ going on to describe the ‘key role’s he played in ‘bringing about positive change,’ according to PEOPLE.

‘Gwen was a leader and a friend,’ the club said in a statement. ‘She was a highly accomplished student at North, being involved in various activities from Changemakers, band, [National Honor Society], math team and tennis, all while being on the high honor roll.

‘Gwen and her father @RepSeanCasten recognized the importance of protecting the environment and the dangers that arose if we kept polluting our planet,’ they wrote, adding that she was ‘always there to help anyone in need and give a listening ear.’

The club described her as an ally ‘who did whatever she could to support and amplify [People of Color’s] voices.

‘Carrying on her legacy means standing up for what you believe in and going above and beyond to make the world a better place,’ the club wrote. ‘Rest in peace, Gwen.’

Gwen was following in her father's footsteps as a political activist before her sudden death on Monday. She is seen here with her father, Rep. Sean Casten, at a pride event

Gwen was following in her father’s footsteps as a political activist before her sudden death on Monday. She is seen here with her father, Rep. Sean Casten, at a pride event

Gwen was following in her father’s footsteps as a political activist prior to her sudden death on Monday, with the representative gushing with pride as he spoke about her just a few days prior.

He told Newsy how he had ‘tremendous pride’ in her after she took the initiative to organize a ‘Stop the Bleed’ training at her school so that children could learn how to pack a gunshot wound during a school shooting.  

‘I have both tremendous pride that my daughter took the initiative to organize that and tremendous shame that we as a country are making it the responsibility of children aged 15, 16 and 17 to do what sitting United States senators don’t have the courage to do themselves,’ Rep. Casten, 50, told Newsy in a recent interview.

Gwen also served as a co-director of the March For Our Lives Illinois chapter, a youth-led movement aimed at tackling gun violence – and following the Capitol insurrection last year, Gwen worked with her father to co-write an article about the impact it had on them both.

At the time, Casten was in his office in Washington DC and Gwen was in school in Illinois.  She described her fear at learning her father had been told to put gas masks on. 

Casten and his wife Kara have two daughters together; Gwen, 17, and Audrey, 14

 Casten and his wife Kara have two daughters together; Gwen, 17, and Audrey, 14

Casten is now running against fellow incumbent Democrat Rep. Marie Newman in the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District, but he has taken down all of his campaign ads in the wake of her death

Casten is now running against fellow incumbent Democrat Rep. Marie Newman in the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District, but he has taken down all of his campaign ads in the wake of her death

Shortly before releasing the announcement, Casten’s campaign office asked Illinois TV stations to immediately pull his campaign spots off air until further notice, reported CBS News-Chicago

Casten is running against fellow incumbent Democrat Rep. Marie Newman in the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District. 

Newman said in a statement on Monday night: ‘My heart breaks for the Casten family for the devastating loss of their daughter. My prayers are with Sean, Kara, and the entire Casten family.’ 

The Newman campaign ‘is working to cease all comparative paid communications immediately,’ the statement said. 

Casten and his wife Kara have two daughters together; Gwen, 17, and Audrey, 14.



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