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In memory of her daughter, a Chantilly mom organizes a gift drive for seniors

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The little girl loved to run around her grandmother’s nursing home, charming the residents with her big blue eyes and her willingness to help. As she grew up, she kept her heart for the elderly, said her mother, Ana Riddell, ministry and event coordinator at St. Veronica Church in Chantilly. So in honor of her late daughter, Ana is spearheading Hailey’s Butterfly Kisses, a Christmas gift drive for the elderly in Madison County.


Hailey Riddell unexpectedly died in September, a few days shy of her 28th birthday. She spent the last year of her life in and out of the hospital, said her mother, but Ana and her husband opted not to perform an autopsy and are still unsure of what caused Hailey’s death.


This drive is one way Ana is keeping Hailey’s spirit alive. Ana remembers how Hailey lit up the house whenever she was around. “She was always like a little kid, always bubbly and happy, always in a good mood,” said her mother. “She would forgive everybody from the heart.”


As a child, Hailey loved to give butterfly kisses, fluttering her eyelashes against loved ones’ cheeks to show her affection, said Ana. During the pandemic, many seniors have been deprived of the gift of physical touch, including members of Ana’s own family. “My dad lives in Peru alone, and I was thinking it would be nice if someone would do something for him,” she said.


So St. Veronica is partnering with a group the parish frequently supports, Madison Emergency Services Association, to send comforting gifts to nursing home residents. Parishioners and friends of Hailey’s have donated blankets, socks, hats, plush holiday decorations, lotion, cards and candy.


In a time when many older people feel isolated, Ana hopes the gifts bring Christmas joy. “It is great because I know it’s going to the right people and I know my daughter would’ve loved to participate. Doing this in her memory keeps me going these days,” said Ana. “I know she’s helping from heaven.” 


Find out more


The Hailey's Butterfly Kisses gift drive for seniors in Madison County runs until Dec. 19. Items can be left in the large bins located in the north and south vestibules of St. Veronica Church, 3460 Centreville Rd, Chantilly. If you have questions, contact Ana Riddell at ariddell@stveronica.net or 703/773-2000. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020