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'She was an old soul' | Family of 9-year-old killed in Standish asking others to spread kindness

The family of Hallie Oldham, the 9-year-old who died after being injured in a windstorm while camping in July, is asking everyone to honor her life by being kind.

NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine — Since her untimely death in June, the family of 9-year-old Hallie Oldham is taking everyday moment by moment.

This summer, the Oldham family had been staying at a campground on Sebago Lake when a powerful windstorm swept through. Hallie was injured in the storm. She didn’t survive.

“Hallie was one-of-a-kind, and she was a bright light in any room that she was in,” Hallie’s aunt, Kristen Arsenault Richards, said. “She always made sure everybody was included. … She made sure everybody was said hello to or everybody felt important.”

“She was an old soul,” Hallie’s aunt, Jessica Gurney, said. “She really started all these ripples of kindness, whether it was giving her last glue stick away at school to making sure that everybody had a friend.”

In many ways, Hallie was just like any other little girl her age. She loved animals, playing with her cousins, running with her dog, and reading any kind of series she could get her hands on. Her aunts said she also loved country music and Kidz Bop.

But Hallie especially loved performing for her family.

“Everyone had to get a ticket, and we all had to sit there,” Arsenault Richards said with a smile.

In other ways, her aunts said Hallie was ahead of her time, and she was always thinking of others. 

Arsenault Richards recalled a time Hallie gave her younger sister, Kylie, her backpack to sit on because the seat was wet on their school bus. Gurney remembered the many Easters when Hallie would find an Easter egg and then drop another one in Kylie’s basket. Easter was Hallie’s favorite holiday.

Credit: NEWS CENTER Maine

“She also loved Christmas, because it's better to give than to receive,” Gurney said. “She really believed in that from making a cardboard Barbie house to a coupon book. She just really had the spirit.”

“Also, her homemade gifts were just so beautiful, and her homemade cards.” Gurney added. “She just did everything from the heart.”

“In every one of her letters to Santa, her dad is a marine engineer on an oil rig, she would ask Santa to bring the oil rig presents and gifts,” Arsenault Richards said. “Those that can't be with their family, she wanted to make sure that they were taken care of, and she started doing that at a very young age and it was just astonishing to see her looking forward to giving when most are guilty of looking forward to Christmas for the gifts they may receive.”

Since her passing, Hallie’s family and her entire community have come together to honor the young girl. The family has created Act of Kindness cards to hand out. The concept is simple: Perform an act of kindness in Hallie’s honor when you can and pass the card on for someone else to do the same.

“Kindness was such a big part of her life. It just came natural to her,” Arsenault Richards said. “So, we wanted to find a way to channel what she had started, and the acts are just a great way to honor her and remember her.”

Many of those acts have already taken place and are being shared in a public Facebook group called Keeping Kindness for Hallie. Sometimes it’s as simple as painting a rock or donating old clothes. One of the first responders on scene the day Hallie died got a tattoo in her honor.

When asked if they thought this kindness movement for Hallie would last a while, the pair responded with a resounding yes.

“Hallie always said that kindness was free, and it doesn't take any extra time just to be nice and to be kind and to look out for others,” Arsenault Richards said. We always knew that she was going to change the world we just didn't know how.”

Gurney and Arsenault Richards said Hallie’s parents, Jen and Jarod Oldham, have appreciated seeing the posts.

“It just renews their faith in the world and that kindness does exist, and Hallie was here to help us spread it.” Gurney said.

The cards can be requested through the Keeping Kindness for Hallie Facebook group page. Hallie's family has already mailed them to people around the state, country and now the world.

“We're mailing these cards to Colorado and California and Washington, and we just mailed one to France,” Arsenault Richards said.

Arsenault Richards and Gurney said Hallie’s younger sister Kylie is also doing what she can to honor her big sister. Most recently, Hallie was signed up to run the Blueberry Kids Fun Run in the town of Gray and Kylie ran in her place.

“She was often shy and now she's a part of a running group that Hallie also used to participate in,” Arsenault Richards said. “So, Kylie is you know certainly missing her sister, but her resilience is showing through.”

It’s that resilience that will help Hallie’s family get through the coming weeks, along with the memories of a little girl who won’t be remembered for the way she died, but the way she lived.

“One of my daughters with Hallie had a song and dance they made up and some of the lyrics were stand tall and be brave,” Gurney said. “That has sort of been our motto through this. We have to stand tall and be brave because that's what Hallie would want.”

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