Remembering Ashleigh: Chittenango native leaves remarkable legacy

Helping and inspiring others became second-nature for Ashleigh Wainwright. And now, after she has passed away, she continues to do so.

Wainwright, 21, passed away Jan. 2 at Golisano's Children Hospital, Syracuse after a 19-year battle with an aggressive form of cancer. She was a 2006 graduate of Chittenango High School and lived in Canastota.

At 18 months, Wainwright was diagnosed with juvenile fibromatosis, a rare disorder that causes tumors to grow in joints, muscles and other soft tissues. She was later diagnosed with familiar adenomatous polyposis, a rare cancer of the colon. Despite the odds against her, Wainwright continued to live as normal a life as possible: graduating high school, dancing in national competitions and attending Cazenovia College for fashion.

But after her death, it's not the disease family and friends are remembering about her. Instead, it's the life she lived and the life they love. Her parents, Traci and Bill, say Wainwright was an independent, beautiful young woman, who made it a point to help others and fight through the diseases stacked against her. "She always did everything, even though she was sick," Traci, her mother, said.

Wainwright was an active dancer all through high school, as a competition dancer with Empire Dance and Gymnastics, Marcy, and the United Academy of the Performing Arts, Oneida.

"She would dance like there was nothing wrong," said Traci. Wainwright danced for 12 years, still attending dance classes and competitions after rounds of radiation. She had a blood transfusion, and would dance in a competition the next day. Even if Wainwright was too sick to dance in her classes, she would always be there. Dance teachers taught two dances: one with Ashleigh participating, and the other without her.

She was honored at a national dance competition at the United States Tournament of Dance, which donated money to a cancer charity in honor of Wainwright.

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