Of all the photos we’ve seen surrounding the Inspiration4 mission, I think the one above might be my favorite.
Just look at the bright eyes and even brighter smile. The wonder on Hayley Arceneaux’s face at everything happening around her at the moment the photo was taken.
And that’s just the framed photo of Hayley as a 10-year-old in treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
That little girl couldn’t have known 19 years later she’d be a crewmember on the first all-civilian mission to orbit the Earth. The youngest American in space. The first with an internal prosthesis.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s one: Possibility.
When Hayley first came to St. Jude with osteosarcoma, there was the possibility she wouldn’t live. There was the possibility she would lose a leg.
But that wasn’t in the stars for Hayley. Instead, just last month, she posed for this picture 360 miles above Earth, moving at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour.
Inspiration. There’s another word, as long as we’re counting. While in space, Hayley had the opportunity to speak with St. Jude patients here on Earth. To show them what’s possible. To inspire them to reach for the very dream that might seem furthest away.
Then she followed up with her return to terra firma and Memphis as she took a hero’s lap around the St. Jude campus to cheers and applause. She stopped at the statue of St. Jude Thaddeus, where patients had gathered to welcome her, to say to them, “You are my heroes … If I can do this, you can do this.”
But back to that photo backdrop. Last week she told the TODAY audience when she looks at that picture now — the photo within a photo — she feels she’s come “full circle.” It’s a circle — an orbit, really — we see so often as former patients return to ALSAC and St. Jude to serve the mission. It’s a mission with its own gravitational pull.
Then there are those who raise funds and awareness in smaller and quieter, yet no less important, ways. Coordinating a Math-A-Thon or organizing a St. Jude Walk/Run team. There are bereaved parents who feel so strongly in what St. Jude does for kids everywhere, they channel their grief into selfless, beautiful support.
Hayley is giving back in her own, celestial way. She wishes she could go back in time and show her 10-year-old self that picture from space and tell that little girl everything is going to be okay. She can’t, of course, but she’s told thousands of kids a lot like her just that, inspiring them to see the possibilities.