RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Family and friends gathered to remember a little girl who touched hearts around the Triangle and the world, as she battled an incurable form of cancer.
Unicorns, balloons, and images of a little girl with a sparkling smile filled a Raleigh community center Saturday. The celebration was fit for a princess, and 4-year-old Jaielle Hayes would’ve adored it
“Jaielle was just love,” said her grandmother, Joann Butler.
“I would just say she’s the definition of love,” added her aunt, Treasure Hayes.
Family and friends promised that love and sweet spirit would live on even after a brutal brain cancer, called DIPG, took Jaielle’s life. The childhood cancer affects the brain stem.
When she was diagnosed a year ago, doctors told her mom, Jada Sherrill, she likely wouldn’t live more than a year.
“She lived 11 months, and during those 11 months, she was so brave. She was so funny — she still made jokes. She still made us smile,” Sherrill recalled.
Remembering Jaielle’s strength comforts Sherrill in her grief. She says she often goes to Jaielle’s room, which is filled with her stuffed animals, to feel close to her.
She also takes comfort in the community she found on social media, where Jaielle’s courage inspired thousands of followers as her mom shared her journey.
“Originally it was just kind of like a cry for help, because I didn’t know what to do,” Sherrill explained. “When you get that type of diagnosis, you feel so alone and you feel like no one else in the world knows what you’re going through, and then you meet other families who do know what you’re going through.”
Jaielle’s courageous battle brought comments from all over the globe. People in Africa and Brazil reached out to Sherrill to share prayers, and words of comfort.
“You just gain a whole new family across the world,” Sherrill explained.
As Jaielle battled cancer, her family also found support in their community in Raleigh. Last December, Raleigh firefighters, police, and people who heard Jaielle’s story turned out for a car parade.
It’s a memory her family now treasures, as they urge others to cherish every moment
“No one should take their time for granted with their child. A year ago today, she was still here, Sherrill said, tearfully. “I just wish I could hug her right now.”
Instead, she embraces other families facing similar struggles, sharing the kindness and love Jaielle gave so freely.