BETHEL — “Our beautiful girl went to Jesus,” Tabaitha Steward said in a Facebook post late Saturday night, announcing that her daughter, Hailey, had passed away.
Hailey Steward, 10, died at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital just before 8 p.m. on Saturday night after an almost 6-year-long battle with leukemia.
She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012 at the age of 5. Since then, not only was her mission to win her fight with cancer, but to aid those fighting the same battle.
Her courage and bravery were inspirational and contagious, and she soon gained the support of thousands of residents in the town of Bethel, and thousands beyond — many of whom she’d never even met.
“I’ve been praying daily for Hailey,” said Rose Lemos of Hanford, California. “I don’t know her personally, but I’m a grandma and cancer survivor. I know she fought a hard battle to the end.”
Many remember her heart of gold, and how she was always thinking of others, no matter what she herself was going through.
“Hailey was an inspiration to me personally when I was initially diagnosed with cancer,” said Julie Driscoll, formerly of South Woodstock, now in Vidalia, Georgia. “She showed me not to be afraid and would check on me regularly when I worked at (Northeast) Bank.”
“She truly was the meaning of strength, bravery, heart and soul,” said Missy Wakefield of Woodstock. “Hailey will carry on a legacy in the heart of Bethel and the state of Maine.”
She wowed adults and peers alike with her “old soul” wisdom, and those who knew her felt lucky to be called her friend.
“Selena would like to say how brave and strong Hailey was through everything,” said Julie Berry of Bethel, mother of Selena Ojeda, a close friend of Hailey. “She’s very grateful to have been a friend and (like a) sister to such an amazing little girl.”
Not only was Hailey’s strength inspirational through her sickness, but her family’s as well.
“I want to (recognize) how strong her parents were, always putting her first, making her happy and comfortable,” Berry said. “Even when she wanted to go to Toys R Us at 4 p.m in the afternoon on a holiday.”
The inspiration is sure to continue, as Tabaitha said Hailey would want it to, with more fundraising and awareness for childhood cancer.
“I just know she’d want us to help fund research,” Tabaitha said.
Hailey’s warriors will continue her fight, their passion only fueled by her passing.
“Selena’s hurting but she’s also got a fire inside her,” Berry said. “Now more than ever, she wants a cure for cancer.”
“We will not stop until we find a cure,” Wakefield said. “She has left a butterfly stamp on all of us.”
Alongside her mother, her father, John, and brother, Jared, she and the nonprofit Team Hailey Hugs raised $12,000 to buy 30 refrigerators for the children staying at BBCH to have in their rooms.
Other accomplishments of Hailey and THH include pajama donations for the children of BBCH, and providing financial and emotional support to families struggling with childhood cancer.
Hailey Steward, 10, of Bethel hugs her Tom Brady doll. She passed away at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital late Saturday night after an almost 6-year-long battle with leukemia.