Remembering a Bright Light

November 27th, 2023 | News

A Reflection by Deborah Still, Director of Development

Bailey Andes was no stranger to trials and adversity. From birth, his complex medical journey gave him a unique perspective on life. Despite living with chronic pain, sometimes unbearable pain, his smile, wit and “can-do” attitude were an inspiration to all those he touched.

I’ve known Bailey since my boys were little and on a swim team with Bailey’s siblings. Bailey could often be found walking the pool deck cheering on the swimmers, but none more important than Riley, Brody and Maisy—he was truly his family’s number one fan.

In late 2021, Bailey’s mom, Kathy, reached out to me. Bailey had recently graduated from Edgewood College and was looking for a way to give back to other families facing medical struggles. Our mission at the Ronald McDonald House hit home for him and his skillsets aligned perfectly with ongoing projects at the House. And so began his tenure with our team.

Bailey was quiet but always arrived at his shift with a big smile and a fresh bottle of lemonade. Though he often retreated to his workstation in the Community Room, he was always quick with a hello and never balked at a task too big or too small. He’d quip, “Sure, I can do that!” – simply thriving on the ability to get involved and give back. He would join us for staff lunches and could be spotted at the Union with his dad, David, on a warm summer day. That was a favorite spot.

At RMHC-Madison, our mission is no stranger to the trials and adversity that come when a child is critically ill. While we often talk about the hope, love and respite that our programs, volunteers and staff provide families; heartache and loss are a reality.  We know this loving community not only supports our families, but our team through difficult times, so we can better care for others.

Yet we were not prepared when it happened to one of our own.

On his way to work in early September, Bailey suffered a major medical event and was rushed to the hospital. The outcome was dire, and our staff was immediately notified. For more than a week we held out hope, sending repeated prayers to Bailey and the entire Andes family. Even at the beginning, you could tell there was a larger community willing him to pull through. His time came to an end too early, and the loss was heartbreaking. Staff gathered that afternoon as a time to come together and remember his incredible spirit. Grieving one of our own made us all pause a little longer and has had a profound effect on our team this fall. Yet it was the light Bailey brought to this earth that lives on.

The scores of memorials made in his honor, remarks shared at his celebration of life and the outpouring of goodness since his passing bring that odd mixture of sadness, gratitude, and laughter. He loved his family dearly and thrived on making people happy. His love of music and Legos live on at the House. His mom shared he was in such a wonderful place when he passed. The weekend before was an unexpected gathering of all his family. He was starting to think about looking for another job in addition to his work with RMHC.

A tile was installed on the Heart Wall in Hope Park this fall in his name. A special tribute will commemorate his spirit and be unveiled later this winter. Our team gathered to make chicken pot pies for guest families recently, which his family made for guests earlier this year. Like so many others, our time with Bailey made the world shine a little brighter and will be forever grateful for our memories.