The Student News Site of Westfield High School

‘A Wounded Healer’: The story of a smile

Sophomore Ailish Campanile passed away on December 15, 2018 at the age of 16. In her honor, Hi’s Eye writes a tribute to highlight Ailish’s positive impact on the community that she loved being a part of. Ailish’s most prominent feature was her infectious smile, so follow us as we explore the journey of the smile that tells countless stories.

January 18, 2019

Everything that Ailish Campanile did, she did with a smile on her face. “[Ailish] loved her school, she loved her home environment,” said Ms. Patricia Mader-Karen, her personal nurse of nine years. “All the positive influences from her home she would bring to school, as well as positive things she learned in school she would bring to her home.”

In the classroom, Ailish strove to participate every day and experience each class to the fullest. English Teacher Katherine McGinley said, “She was just so thirsty for knowledge, so not only did she read the stuff she had to read for class but she would read on the side or if I just gave excerpts from something she would want to read the whole book.”

Spanish Teacher Paula Parada, who had Ailish as a student for two years, saw this enthusiasm in the classroom as well. “She always had a smile on her face, had a great attitude, was always motivated to learn Spanish and nothing ever held her back,” she said. “As a teacher, that was so amazing to see every single day. She had such a great outlook on life, and just on learning the language and being so active in the classroom and with all of her peers.”

Photo by Elizabeth Campanile
‘This was a trip to Scranton in honor of The Office. The mall was a letdown since many of the stores closed down, but she had fun anyway. She loved reading and tee shirts with sayings and she was fond of Of Mice and Men.’

This passion was not only expressed in the classroom, but was expressed in her extracurricular activities as well. Ailish was a part of Girls Learn International, Rare Disease Club and American Sign Language Club. According to each of the clubs’ presidents, Ailish contributed a great deal of energy to the atmosphere and every club meeting.

Ailish’s mom said that her daughter enjoyed high school a lot, especially the extracurriculars she was involved in. “During her high school years she became more confident and truly enjoyed her high school experience,” she wrote in an email. “She loved the diversity [of clubs] and the extracurricular activities like the GLI cupcake event, the Valentine’s Day Love Song event, the plays and GLI’s Women in Politics event.”

“During the [ASL club] meetings when we learned new terms, we would walk around and try to have a conversation only in sign [language],” said one of the club’s co-presidents, Angelina John ‘20. “I was really amazed, especially in our first meeting, of how much sign language she knew and how interested she was in the club.”

According to Mader-Karan, Ailish had a special connection with sign language that dates back to when she was very young. “She really liked the Sign Language Club. When she was younger, she was on a ventilator, so she used to sign as a child,” she said. “That was fun for her to come full circle and to share her sign language experience with her high school friends.”

‘She was someone who showed her happiness and that was really special. We loved to see her happy because she had such a warmth to her.’”

— Alyssa Milrod, '19

Girls Learn International co-president Sarah Laide ‘19 saw just how dedicated Ailish was to the club, as she was the member with the best attendance in the 2017-18 school year. Her active participation in club events was also noted: “She was always someone who could make you smile even if you had the most stressful day, like during events when everything was chaotic,” Laide said. “She was such an important member of our club.”

Ailish went through a lot of difficulty in her life: some much like any other teenager, and others that were unique to her. Despite these setbacks, she constantly looked on the the bright side of every situation.

As a result of the many surgeries she underwent in her lifetime, Ailish had a lot of scars. According to Father David Santos, another story her mother shared was about those scars. Instead of letting them be a symbol of her hardships, Ailish would associate every scar she had with a history, personality and story as if they were real people. They were symbols “not of what was, but of what could be…something that was life giving rather than life limiting ” as stated in Fr. Santos’ homily for the funeral.

“Usually [scars are] a reminder of the pain and difficulties you endured in your past but [Ailish] saw in them a sense of hope, a transformation, and so something that really came to me in preparing for the funeral and celebrating her life and faith was the understanding of a wounded healer,” Fr. Santos said in an interview. “[A wounded healer is] someone who can transform the difficulties in their lives, even their physical pains into means of hope and of transformation.”

Photo by Elizabeth Campanile
‘We spent the day at a friend’s farm. She had just met this horse and the horse totally bonded with Ailish. The horse had a difficult life and was scared of people but was connected to Ailish right away.’

Although he didn’t get the chance to develop a deep relationship with her, he was inspired by her optimism in the face of adversity. She not only had hope for her life, but for the many people who faced similar struggles, many of whom she heard from at the Rare Disease Club meetings.

“Something about our club is that you hear really unique stories about people, and you could tell Ailish really loved learning about people and taking in their experiences, and she was very empathetic,” said senior and president of the Rare Disease Club, Alyssa Milrod. “Her emotions synced up with the story as if it was her own.”

Ailish’s caring personality was seen in the clubs she participated in at school, as well as the activities she did outside of school. Ailish spent much of her free time volunteering at the Summit Animal Rescue Association, helping foster cats.

According to senior Yuliana De Los Rios, she and Ailish would watch live streams of animals in Africa during their free period together.

“Ailish would just get so excited about these animals, she thought they were so cute,” De Los Rios remembered. “And I just thought, ‘Wow, I wish I had such a pure adoration as Ailish does with these African live streams of animals.’ It brought her so much joy.”

Her energy and passion were not just reserved for animals. Her enthusiasm translated into her other daily activities as well. “She represented what you can be if you are positive and if you approach every day as if it’s the best day,” said Mader-Karan. “Every day to her was the best day to go to school, to hang out, to watch Netflix, or whatever she wanted to do.”

Photo by Hanna Zakharenko
Ailish and the members of the Girls Learn International Club.

McGinley expressed the same sentiments. “She would almost burst out energy to talk about books, which as an English teacher, is so rare [to find] and I loved that,” McGinley said. “She would either hate a book or love it, but she would consistently read and be passionate about whatever it was.”

Despite having some speech difficulties, Ailish was always confident during class and never failed to raise her hand. Her participation inspired discussions—which encouraged the whole class to start talking.

Ailish also found ways around her difficulties with speaking. Whenever she was with De Los Rios, they’d use Ailish’s iPad to have conversations if Ailish was feeling especially tired or De Los Rios was having trouble hearing her.

“We had our funniest conversations on [the iPad] and sometimes I’d write something and she’d laugh so hard,” De Los Rios explained. “She showed me the good in everything.”

Ailish’s happiness radiated to everyone and people went to great lengths to see her smile. “[When planning club meetings] we would always think ‘What would make Ailish so happy?’ because she was someone who showed her happiness and that was really special,” Milrod said. “We loved to see her happy because she had such a warmth to her.” 


McGinley plays a lot of songs by Enya as well as calm, relaxing piano music in her class while her students work. However, the students in her class didn’t enjoy her choice of music as much as she thought they did.

“I didn’t pick up on that, so Ailish was the diplomat for the class and she very kindly told me that she would be happy to make a playlist for the class that more kids would like to hear,” McGinley explained. “So I said, ‘Okay, great’ and she put together an awesome playlist that all the kids were much happier with. I treasure that now because I have the playlist that she made for us.”

In honor of Ailish, Hi’s Eye and McGinley give you this playlist so you can listen to her voice through these songs.


4 Responses to “‘A Wounded Healer’: The story of a smile”

  1. Sara-Jessica Dilks on January 18th, 2019 12:10 pm

    Hi Mary-Joy and Hanna, I’m a family friend of Ailish and I just wanted to let you know how well-written this piece was…a perfect tribute to her amazing personality and life. Every single quote captures her beautifully. Thanks for the read, this is something I’ll look back on for a long time whenever I think about her.

    Thanks so much,
    Sara-Jessica Dilks

  2. Bettty McCann on January 18th, 2019 3:28 pm

    A beautiful tribute to our beautiful girl. I don’t know anyone with such a fabulous smile. Thank you all for the wonderful memories and for being such caring friends and teachers to my granddaughter. I love and miss her very much

    Gramma Betty

  3. Jim on January 18th, 2019 8:46 pm

    Love you Ailish

  4. Judy egan on January 29th, 2019 9:09 pm

    Although I never met Alish I feel that I knew her through the beautiful pictures that Betty shared with me
    She was my St JUDE CHILD and loved her .

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.

Hi’s Eye • Copyright 2019 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in