“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light,” Helen Keller once said. Madelynn McInerney, known to her friends as Maddy, who was a junior at Libertyville High School, repeated this in a speech she gave in October regarding the positive attitude she had maintained after being diagnosed with cancer.
This attitude lightened the spirit of many of her friends, even throughout her illness.
“She was the light in every room and constantly making jokes and filling the room with laughter. She was such a beautiful soul and was a beautiful person inside and out,” said Grace Walsh, a junior at LHS and a friend of Maddy’s.
Maddy died away on Friday, Nov. 25 after her two-year battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer that causes tumors in the brain. She was 17 years old and a junior at LHS.
Sophie Pearson, another friend of Maddy’s and a junior at LHS, also mentioned the effects Maddy had on the people around her.
“One of the most unique things about her was her ability to make an impact on everyone she met and above everything, she had the biggest heart.”
Maddy’s “big heart” translated in many aspects of her life, not just her ability to meet people. Prior to her diagnosis, at the ages of both 13 and 14, Maddy shaved her head for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer.
After she was diagnosed, Maddy, as well as her family, friends, and fellow community members, participated in two walks for awareness. The first one, which took place in May 2015, was held by “Voices Against Brain Cancer” and participants walked with “Team Maddy.” The second walk, held in October 2016, was through the organization “BrainUp” and this time, “Maddy’s Voice” was the designated team name.
“‘Maddy’s Voice,’ that’s what it’s all about; you could hear her voice over everyone, and it was surely the loudest in the room,” Walsh said of the team name.
Both walks were held to bring awareness and raise money to find better treatments for brain cancer. Collectively, Maddy was able to raise more than $20,000, not including the money individual participants on her team raised. At her first walk, Maddy won a Courage Award due to the optimistic attitude she had regarding her diagnosis.
“Throughout her whole journey, Maddy just showed so much courage. She was obviously afraid, but she didn’t show it, and she was so strong. I think she is a great role model for everyone to see just how brave you can be,” said Kaitlin Sartin, a close friend of Maddy’s and a junior at LHS, over the phone.
Maddy was very active throughout the school and community, another reason her death affected so many. Through the school, Maddy was involved with cheerleading, bowling, Best Buddies, and choir. The Bel Canto choir, of which Maddy was formerly a part of, even sang at her funeral, along with other students in the choir program.
Mrs. Leigh Anne McInerney, Maddy’s mom, mentioned how much her daughter would have loved it: “Maddy loved the choir; it’s not so much she liked to sing, I mean, she didn’t have a bad voice, she just loved people. For her, [choir] was a class where you not only sang and got credit for it, but you could be a part of a group. That’s all she really wanted.”
Because of Maddy’s involvement, as well as her general attitude and personality, her passing has been felt by many. Mrs. McInerney and Pearson both agree that Maddy’s death should — and will — have a lasting impact.
“What can be learned from her passing is how having a great attitude towards life and such positive and optimistic views about things can make very tough situations more manageable. Her strength gave me and others the strength to do great things,” Pearson said.
Mrs. McInerney hoped that the way her daughter lived her life would show others something about kindness: “I think the one good thing that could come out of this would be if people are more kind to one another and good to one another, no matter who you are or who your friends are. She had a lot of different friends, different groups in different places. She got along with everybody. And I think that’s what she would want for everybody else: for everyone to be happy.”