Kira Ellis remembers meeting Madison "Maddy" Boutelle two years ago.
"When we first saw each other, we knew we were going to be best friends," the 14-year-old said. "She came up to me, I stuck out my hand to shake her hand, and she just hugged me."
Maddy, a beaming 13-year-old who attended Ensign Intermediate School in Newport Beach, suffered a brain aneurysm June 8 at a friend's birthday party in Newport. It was the result of a previously unidentified set of thin arteries in her brain, relatives and friends said.
After an emergency surgery at Hoag Hospital, the popular eighth-grader was taken to Children's Hospital of Orange County, where she died Tuesday.
"She was more like a best friend, my closest friend," said Maddy's twin brother, Jack. "She was five minutes older than me. She always rubbed that in my face. I don't know a person she ever hurt … she touched so many people. I love her."
The outpouring of grief, as well as strong support, for Maddy's family from classmates, parents and strangers is a testament to how many lives the bubbly Newport native touched.
"What I was thinking about during all this is why is she connecting with everybody so much?" said Kim Ellis, Kira's mother. "It's not like she started a nonprofit, ran a marathon. It's just everything she does, she helps. She defends all the kids. She's just there for everybody."
When it became clear that Maddy wasn't going to make it, so many people wanted to say goodbye, said Ensign teacher Stefanie Beek. More than 75 students and 50 parents visited CHOC on Sunday.
"I got to say goodbye to her. I'm so thankful for that," Beek said. "That's all I keep holding on to."
Maddy was in Beek's physical education class in seventh grade and was her teacher's assistant this school year.
"Every morning I spent an hour with her," Beek said. "She was so polite and beautiful and fun and always asked me about my day and what I did over the weekend or planned to do. I felt like I was hanging out with a friend every morning … she was an old soul. So sweet to the bone."
Maddy loved going to the beach and hanging out with friends at Alta Coffee Warehouse and Restaurant on the Balboa Peninsula. Maddy sometimes showed a hilarious side that illustrated her love of life.
"Whenever a song came on that she liked, she'd get up and start dancing," Kira said. "She attempted to sing but she wasn't very good. She didn't care what people thought; she was very herself.
"She was always happy and laughing and when people saw her they would smile."
Michael Manser, 14, Maddy's cousin, was in the same grade as her at Ensign and remembered being teased earlier this school year. Maddy was there for him.
"Without hesitation," Michael said, "she loved everyone. She was the kindest person you could ever meet. She was always there for people who needed help and always stuck up for people."
The Boutelles have deep roots in Newport Beach. Maddy's mother, Carolyn, went to Ensign.
Maddy volunteered at her church, St. Andrew's Presbyterian near Newport Harbor High School, where she planned to attend in the fall. She also planned to volunteer at Hoag.
Several of Maddy's organs have been donated, which her family said she would have wanted after she donated her hair to Locks of Love a few years ago.
"I would like to say that Maddy was truly one of the most brightest, kindest and incredible people I will ever know," said her brother William. "She lit up every room she walked in with her smile and her always-uplifting persona. She wasn't just the sunshine — she was the sun."
In addition to William, Jack and Carolyn, Maddy is survived by her father, Matt; and sisters Ashley Kirkley and Allison Kirkley-Cassara.
A paddleout ceremony in Maddy's memory will take place off 24th Street in Newport Beach at 10 a.m. Saturday. A memorial service will also be held at 2 p.m. that day at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, 600 St. Andrews Road. The service is open to the public.
Twitter: @JosephSernaCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun