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Remembering Madison

She was a young woman who wanted to share the stuffed animals she'd won at amusement parks with children.
Madison Fleming, 16, passed away on June 30.
Madison Fleming, 16, passed away on June 30.

She was a young woman who wanted to share the stuffed animals she'd won at amusement parks with children.She wouldn't take no for an answer when trying to track down a cupcake shop in Victoria she had seen on television, even though it was a 22-kilometre walk.And she radiated happiness, generosity and kindness that infected everyone she knew—except players on opposing teams when she was playing softball.Those who knew Madison Fleming well, whether family, friends, teachers or coaches, all painted pictures of a 16-year-old with a smile that could light up the world and an optimistic outlook that would inspire anyone.“She was such a lovely girl and enjoyed life to the fullest, even with her diabetes,” said Debbie Fleming, Madison's grandmother.On June 30, Madison, who had a passion for science, swam for the Olds Rapids Swim Club and performed in the Olds and District Kiwanis Music Festival, passed away.The cause of her death is not yet known.Throughout the following days, her close friends came together to create tributes to Madison's life while supporting each other and Madison's family.They created bracelets spelling out Madison's name that included charms recognizing her love of owls and incorporated her favourite saying, “Kindness matters.”Madison's mother Pam asked those in attendance at her daughter's funeral on July 5 to remember that saying when they think of Madison.“Our daughter Madison was a parent's true joy,” Pam said in her eulogy, which she recited to the Olds Albertan on July 7. “Madison always seemed to be at peace with the way she lived her life. She was always able to see and feel the joy in the moment no matter where she was or what she was doing, rather than searching and worrying about where the joy would come from.”The group of friends also created two scrapbooks, a “memory book” including photographs chronicling Madison's life and everything she loved and one containing letters from people in Madison's life who wanted to say goodbye.Cali Wright, who became friends with Madison in Grade 6 when Madison asked her if she would walk to school with her, said the group of friends was going to give the books to Madison's family as a surprise.She described Madison as the motivational heart of their group.“She definitely gave us that extra push, all the time to do as good as we could do,” she said. “She never said an unkind word to anyone and she was always so willing to learn and grow and just be the best person she could be.”Taylor Ormann, who along with Madison, Cali and Janine Nel, were selected to represent Olds High School at the Canada Wide Science Fair in Ontario in May, said one of Madison's strongest qualities was her confidence.“Madison was really optimistic. Like, we are all realists, kind of on the border of pessimists. She was an optimist so she always kept her viewpoint even when we were like ‘No, that's not right.' She'd always be positive,” she said, adding Madison never doubted that she and her friends would advance from their school's science fair, to a regional fair in Red Deer to the national event.“And we did.”Taylor and Cassidy Dundas were with Madison on June 29 when they enjoyed the day together at the Calaway Park amusement park outside Calgary.Like always, Taylor said, Madison's big heart was front and centre that day as she wanted to give stuffed animals she'd won in a carnival game to little children.Even though Taylor and Cassidy talked her out of that, Madison still found a way to spread some joy.“So she left them on benches and in the maze for kids to find,” Taylor said.Allison Land remembered her friend as someone with a strong, independent and sometimes quirky character.She and Madison played softball together, with Allison playing pitcher and Madison catching, and Madison had a unique way of signalling to other players how many outs the team had.Instead of the usual two-away gesture where a player sticks up their index and pinky fingers on one hand, Madison used her thumb and pinky to make the “hang loose” gesture, Allison said.“She was like, ‘Two away ladies, two away!' and I'd turn around to my infield, ‘Hang loose ladies, hang loose.'”As they put the final touches on Madison's tributes, the group of friends shared other fond memories of Madison: How she “adored” taking “selfie” photographs, how she posted positive quotes on Pinterest such as “I don't just read good books, I climb inside them,” how she would come to school and tell corny science jokes—“So oxygen and potassium go on a date. It went OK”— and how she was crazy about anything Disney, especially the animated film Frozen.Along with Madison's funeral on July 5, her friends, teachers and others who knew and loved her came together at Olds High School on July 1.Many who attended the gathering wrote messages to Madison on balloons.“The one that I put on there was, her little brother, we said, ‘Do you know where Madison is?' and he's like, ‘She's up in heaven, waterskiing with Charlie,' who was their old golden retriever. So I wrote ‘I hope you're up in heaven, waterskiing with Charlie' and that we'll miss you and we love you,” Taylor said.Brad Clapp, a humanities teacher at the school who taught Madison in the academic team program, said the school organized the July 1 gathering to give students “a shoulder to lean on” at a time when they are separated because of summer break.He said about 50 people came out to the gathering and there were “lots of tears but there was also laughter.”“By the end of it everyone was feeling a little bit better,” Clapp said, adding the school will commemorate Madison at the beginning of the upcoming school year.He said he will always remember Madison's enthusiasm and passion.“She's a phenomenal kid. We loved her. She was very positive and really loved learning,” he said, adding she was also a natural leader. “The thing about Madison that really stood out is she has a peer group of overachievers. “Really nice group of friends, very good students. What was great about Madison is that she really embraced the challenges as well as the victories.”Clapp also said Madison would be “sorely missed” at the school.“Sixteen-year-old kids aren't supposed to slip away from you like that,” he said, adding people often glorify others when they pass away, but Madison deserved every bit of praise.“Madison was just a golden child and our world is just a lot smaller without her.”peverest@olds.greatwest.ca