Madison Jewel Baird, 20, passed away at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Feb. 11, 2015, after sustaining injuries in a bicycle accident near Walla Walla. She was a sophomore Spanish and health science major at Walla Walla University. She graduated from Walla Walla Valley Academy in 2013.
Madison was born in Walla Walla on a snowy night, Dec. 15, 1994. After four years she moved with her family to the Columbia Gorge. She grew up enjoying the river and spectacular views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. From an early age, she loved the outdoors, and the wilder the environment, the better.
Creativity bubbled out of Madison. She loved the arts: music, singing, acting, ballet, drawing, painting, photography, graphic design, writing poetry and songs. She studied piano and violin, and she performed in the National Old-Time Fiddlers’ Contest several years in a row. She loved to watch musicals, which she memorized and sang every chance she could.
Madison maintained a superb sense of style and yet remained unaffected by the whims of fashion or the expectations of others. Her inner compass directed the way she carried herself and connected with people.
Her collection of friends was the least exclusive club in the world. Her incandescent smile swept across everyone in her path. Her best friend, though, was Jesus, and she wasn’t shy about letting people know.
Giving to others was a passion of Madison’s, and some of the highlights of her life were the spring breaks she spent at the Mount of Olives Children’s Village in Urupan, Mexico, from ages 11-16. In March of 2014 she spent her spring break in Latvia participating in Christian youth programs and visiting poor children in community centers.
One of her defining experiences was her involvement in the RAD Camp at Big Lake youth camp in Sisters, Ore. Each week during the summer she challenged her teen campers to keep up with her while backpacking, rock climbing, and river rafting, while learning to know Jesus better. When one of her campers clung to her crying at the end of camp because she had no real home to return to, Madison pointed to the mountains around them and said, “Look around you. This is your home that God provided for you. It is beautiful. It can fill you up.”
From a very young age, Madison was filled with purpose, focus, and goals. Although she was still exploring the exact career path that would accommodate her many interests, Madison knew that she would spend her life helping others. Since the age of six it was her dream to build an orphanage.
Madison had a fistful of plans for the next few years: more RAD Camp counseling, perfecting her Spanish in Argentina next year and exploring the Patagonia peaks, taking a study tour of England, and completing her undergraduate degree at WWU. Then she planned to pursue graduate studies in health science at Loma Linda University to prepare for a career of service. She intended to put a favorite motto from her journal to use: “Live your life like you are walking on a painted rainbow.”
When Madison was 13, she wrote in her journal: “One day I hope to make a difference in someone’s life. I am scared and I am insecure about what people think of me. I crave to be someone. Not to be like all the fish in the sea but to be different. To be like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mother Teresa. Have I made a difference? If I die did I leave a foot print in the sand? Was God walking with me or was it just me?”
On Valentine’s Day this year, Madison’s organs saved the life of several people. The lives her life has touched are too many to count. Samples of Madison’s life may be found on Facebook.
Madison is survived by her father, Matt Baird, her mother, Lisa Giebel, her stepfather, Art Giebel, her sister Josie, her “sisters in spirit” Phoebe Wilson and Emma Wolford, and numerous grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Memorial contributions may be made to Big Lake Youth Camp Maddy Memorial Fund, 19800 Oatfield Rd., Gladstone, Ore., 97027 or Walla Walla University Maddy Memorial Fund, 204 S. College Ave., College Place, Wash. 99324.