Our organization’s beginning was unintended because our founders lost their only daughter, Hailey, on March 28, 2017, at 17-years of age, due to mental illness.
Part of the mission of Hailey’s Voice of Hope is to bring awareness to mental health illness, and to break the stigma of mental health issues as portrayed in the movies and on TV and as highlighted in the news to promote fear for increased ratings.
Due to the perception of so many, when Hailey was missing, Hailey’s parents were fearful of sharing her mental illness, especially her complete diagnosis, in fear that people would stop searching, or caring for her safe return.
Hailey’s diagnosis changed many times over the years, and if one was able to search her records, they could probably find at least ten different diagnoses. However, Hailey’s latest diagnosis was schizoaffective bipolar disorder.
Since our initial goal of Hailey’s Voice of Hope is to raise awareness and erase the stigma of mental illness, Hailey’s parents believe it will be helpful to the cause to share with you the Hailey as seen by so many of her family and friends. Hailey’s family describes Hailey in so many beautiful ways, but that can be taken as biased, so we and Hailey’s parents think sharing memories and descriptions of Hailey by others will truly show how funny, caring, unique and quirky she was, despite her long struggle with severe mental illness. The first post was one of Hailey’s Facebook posts shortly after the tragedy in France. As you read each post from her friends, we hope you gain a clearer understanding that mental illness does not always present itself as the evil portrayed in movies and in the news. Hailey did not wish for “mental illness,” any more than someone wishes for cancer.
Please, let’s help end the stigma of mental illness, so that the people who need help are not afraid to reach out for it.
I have a habit of trying to see things from everyone’s point of view, and I like to think I’m pretty good at it. It’s the reason why I have a hard time committing to a stance on political issues (I can see all sides) and the reason I’m good at playing the devil’s advocate. Sometimes, I even try to envision what goes through the bad guys’ minds, as well. Not because I’m trying to excuse or sympathize with them, but because I try to understand what it is that can corrupt a person. But I will never even begin to comprehend the mindset behind religious zealots who slay innocents. These people end lives over a reason as trivial as religious differences. They believe that because someone does not worship the same God as them, they don’t deserve to live. They legitimately believe that mass murder is righteous and morally correct. I can’t express in words how warped it is. What benevolent deity would promote the annihilation of its own creations? And why would anyone want to worship anything but a benevolent deity? No matter how I look at it, no matter how much I try to twist my mind to mimic theirs, I can’t form any reasoning behind it, not even weak reasoning. I haven’t the faintest idea what sparked these delusions in these peoples’ heads. Best wishes to everyone in France right now. You are definitely in my thoughts.Hailey Acierno
Even though it has been a few years, I have many cherished memories of Hailey in my classroom. The thought-provoking questions she would ask in class that showed she could see things in historical events that every other student missed. The way she would sit with her legs tucked up under her when she sat her desk. The historical head drawings that she would put so much effort into that she would never finish. The thousands of eye drawings. How she would make arguments in philosophical chairs that would flip the whole classroom to her side. The fact that because of Hailey, and a couple students like her, I changed my entire grading philsophy because I realized it was unfair.
This is my favorite Hailey memory. Hailey comes back to school after being absent a day and needed to make up the quiz. It was a 5n5 quiz that I usually project with a PowerPoint on screen as an opener. So she could make it up, I moved her to a table in the back, set up the quiz on my laptop, and told her to just scroll through the questions on her own. I went back to teaching. She called me over when she was finished and she was trying to suppress a full-blown Cheshire Cat grin. I asked if she thought she did well on the quiz, assuming that was why she was so pleased. She almost always did well on my tests. That was not it though. She asked me to try my Google Chrome. It seemed odd until I realized: the prankster wanted to make sure she could see the result of her handiwork. I opened up my Chrome to discover that every picture, on every page, was changed to Nicolas Cage, in all his hammy glory. As a teacher, I felt like I was supposed to respond with a lecture about other people’s property, blah, blah, blah. Instead, I was pleased and happy. I interpreted the event as her feeling safe with me and trusting me. I couldn’t be mad at her for that. A lot of teachers probably would not see it that way, but I did. Besides, it was really funny. I have used the same practical joke on a bunch of people since, and it always brings back fond memories of Hailey.Michael Evans
Hailey and I were at La Amistad together last summer. She got there a few weeks before me. I remember the day I got there, she was wearing a beautiful dress with flowers, I think the flowers were purple or pink. Staff had told her that the dress was “too short,” so she sighed and went back to our room to change. A few minutes later, she walked back out STILL wearing the dress with a long pair of shorts underneath, smiling. She was always doing things like that: thinking outside the box, testing limits (in a good way). When I first got there, I was weak, shaky, and scared to death. Everyone seemed to stare at me since I was the newest one, and I felt so intimidated by them. The first day was so hard, and at the end of the day after dinner and group, I was able to finally lay in my bed inside the room with nine or ten other girls. We started taking showers one by one, and that’s when I heard it. Hailey was singing her head off in the shower, laughing and belting out the lyrics to random songs that popped into her head. Experiencing that tiny glimpse of hope and fun inside of there is what convinced me that I would be able to survive. She finished showering, climbed into her messy bed that she hated to make up every morning, and sketched until she fell asleep.
…the thing I’ve discovered that helps me feel like everything is going to be okay is remembering her. Little details, small memories, simple things that make me smile about the way she lived. I keep thinking about her art from the time we were at La Amistad together. She was always able to expand simple artistic ideas into concepts that captured exactly what we were all feeling. I remember one day where we had art therapy, and the assignment was to illustrate a tree that reminds us of ourselves. I drew a palm tree because I’m tall (so inspirational, I know right). A few people drew oaks trees since they are “strong,” but that was about the deepest and most thoughtful thing that anyone drew. And then there was Hailey. When it was her turn to share, she showed one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how to explain why it impacted me so much, it just did. The tree had two sides: one was drawn to depict her “imagination,” and one was drawn to show her “thoughts and demons.” I’ve always thought about that.
I guess I’m writing this to show you guys how Hailey touched and changed me. She’s a beam of strength in my mind. She fought so hard for so long, and the amount of courage that takes is immeasurable. A lot of people that I know say things like “Sophie, I know how hard it must be to keep going and we’re so proud of you,” and “I know what you’re going through.” Although I know that these things are said with loving intentions, it makes me feel alone because it feels as though no one understands the amount of pain and fighting that life requires for me. Hailey was one of the first people who broke through to me and let me know that I wasn’t alone. Seeing her fight helped me fight, and it still does. Although thinking of her makes me sad, it also encourages me to keep going. If I can’t do that for myself, then I need to do it for her. The fact that she’s able to inspire and help people, even after leaving this world, says so much about who she is and how she fought. Thank you both for bringing her into this world, and helping her life include as much joy as it could, even in the face of her illness.Sophie
I think about Hailey every day. Whenever I had to be brave, she was the person I turned to. She was and will always be the strongest person I have ever met. Meeting her changed my life in so many amazing ways. She was who I aspired to be because she was so incredibly strong and never let her problems stop her. She always had a smile on her face and a pick-me-up to make me feel…better after a hard day.
But I wanted to message you to make you laugh, so I’m going to tell you a few stories of her brand of humor. One time, we went to Islands of Adventure, in 8th grade I think? There was a giant roller coaster (as there tend to be at theme parks) except I’m incredibly afraid of heights. Hailey’s can’t get enough of them. I told her that there was no way I was going to get on the biggest one, but she sweet-talked me into going on one of the smaller ones. Hailey constantly distracted me by talking about random things and people we saw along the way, making up stories about them. Once we got on the roller coaster, I noticed that it was green, the same color as the biggest one. I then realized that she had distracted me so I wouldn’t notice that we were actually on the biggest, tallest one. I turned to her and just asked her, “Why would you do this?” and then the ride started and we were both screaming. Long story short, I had the time of my life, and started getting over my fear of heights. I was so mad at her the rest of the day because I didn’t want to admit that it was actually pretty fun.
Another time, we were at a dance, and there were gigantic white feathers everywhere in little glass cups. Hailey turned to me and said, I’m going to make it rain feathers” and secretly started taking them all. It was 30 minutes until someone finally noticed they were gone, and by that point, it was too late. She had handed them out to everyone, and as soon as the teachers came out trying to figure out where in the world the feathers had gone, we were all at the second story, throwing feathers on top of them. I remember Hailey laughing so hard that she was crying at the expressions on their faces. No one figured out that it was her who had planned it, but it was the highlight of the dance. I have a picture of her right before she started taking them, looking super dorky.
Something interesting and incredibly absurd was bound to happen when she was around.Ananya
With a heavy heart, I send my love and prayers to your family. Hailey was my best friend and I loved her to pieces. Smart, kind, funny, creative, you couldn’t have raised a better daughter, and I know she loved you very much. It’ll never be easy to accept the loss of our beloved Hailey but God will take good care of her. There is so much to be proud of in Hailey, and I thank you for blessing the world with her.
She made such a positive impact on the lives of many. I’ll always remember her energy, and the many adventures I have the honor of sharing with her. I’ll cherish her memory forever, and I’ll always be thinking of you.Brenna
I will never forget Hailey’s sense of humor. Hailey was incredibly funny. She was also a very kind-hearted person and comforted me when I had my bad moments. (Crying episodes turned into hugs and giggles). I remember when we were at the beach. She bought herself a “Team Valor” shirt from Pokemon Go. She also bought me a shirt from Pokemon Go, but it was a “Team Mystic” shirt, a team opposed to both “Instinct” and “Valor.” We had tons of fun playing Pokemon Go around the towns and beating each other at finding the next “hip” Pokemon to catch.
I miss her coming in. It was always fun.Mariah
I felt privileged to be a part of the team of professionals who provided care to Hailey and so pleased that you allowed me to join them. As the months passed during our work together, I came to know Hailey as intelligent, thoughtful, kind, honest, altruistic, empathic, with a strong and sure moral compass, compassionate, a person who accepted the differences of all types in people, a talented writer, someone who loved her family – an altogether delightful, unique and exceptional young person. I would hope that anyone involved with the organization you are working to establish would come to understand the person for whom it is named. The world would be a better place were there more Haileys in it and the loss of her diminishes the world by some measure.
Know that the memory of your extraordinary daughter will remain with me always.Charlotte
Hailey was one of the brightest soul and best people I have ever met. I miss her terribly and I know you do too. She always had such an amazing energy around her and whenever she smiled or hugged me, my day always got better. She was so smart, so smart. We used to have these random debates during lunch about whatever came to mind and they were always so interesting.Brynna
I was roommates with Hailey back in September when I got Baker Acted. Hailey and I talked for hours when it was our quiet time. She talked about how much she loves her family and everything. This is absolutely breaking my heart that no one has seen or heard from her. I want to wish you the best of luck in finding your baby girl.Destiny
I never really got to express to you in person how much of an impact Hailey and her friendship has made on my life.
I spent my junior year at Wharton. I am graduated now, but that year was one of my best years of my life and Hailey and her friendship had much to do with that.
I was registered on the very first day of school. The process took up to 4th period which just so happened to be my lunch period. Wharton was my first real school move, so going to lunch as my first experience was stressful. I sat by myself, on a bench with a handful of people who had no one to sit with. I tried to start conversation with those around me, but those people were awfully too quiet and seemed to be disinterested in what I was saying. Going onto my next period (5th period Spanish 3 Honors) I looked around the room and sat next to a friendly face, a person I thought I could get along with. And I did. Our mutual friend Brynna. On the second day, I sat on the same bench, but Brynna saw me and invited me over to eat lunch with her and her friends which quickly became friends of my own. Hailey being one of those friends. Our little friend group was energetic, open and always there for each other. They each welcomed me with open arms, and made my junior year nothing but life-changing.
Hailey was and will continue to be one of the brightest souls I have ever known. She was always so caring to all of us and her energy was contagious. The amount of laughs we all shared and random stories that were told, to all of the inside jokes will always be some of my favorite memories. Hailey and I would sing along loudly to a few of our favorite songs by My Chemical Romance and Twenty One Pilots during lunch. We didn’t care who was around, and it was in those moments where I was care-free, and it felt great. We even had plans to audition for a talent show acting as Twenty One Pilots.
I will never forget Hailey. I don’t think anyone will. The light she has instilled in us will continue to shine within our hearts. She will forever be one of the most genuine, caring, brightest and passionate individuals I have ever known.Anaiz R.