There was nothing average about Ashley Soulé Conroy. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1984, Ashley drew smiles and love from others in the first breath she took. She was a child who thrived in nature and was fiercely protective of her family. She loved animals and never was shy about asking for just one more dog, cat, turtle, hamster, or rabbit to round out the family.
Always a more introspective person, Ashley turned to art for moments of quiet and reflection. She practiced various forms of fine art throughout her childhood and teenage years, winning art awards and often having her work published in school magazines and newspapers. Ashley’s talents weren’t confined to the art room, though. She excelled in academics, was the MVP of her championship-winning volleyball team, and during her senior year of high school she was crowned homecoming queen. Needless to say, she was the kind of rare human who was both high-achieving and also deeply loved by her friends, family, and peers.
But as an outsider looking in, you’d never know those things. Because beyond all of that Ashley was humble, often shrugging off these accomplishments as the result of good teaching, good teamwork, or the simple stroke of good luck.
Ashley graduated from St. Martin’s Episcopal in 2003 and later enrolled at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina where she was pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Religious Studies. Her years in Charleston can best be described as years of playful evolution and self-exploration, marked not only by the various hats she tried on – for instance, as a vegetarian and a yogi and a knitter and a biker – but also as evidenced by her hair, which seemed to change colors by the month.
But that was all just part of the way Ashley lived her short life — exploring and experimenting with different people and places and ways of living. She was never afraid to break free from what her parents or peers or loved ones expected of her and simply just be true to herself.
And it was that self that she was eagerly exploring when her life was cut short during a tragic and unexplainable event in Bodh Gaya in March of 2006, just one month into her study abroad program in India.
There is much left unanswered about Ashley’s death and that is a fact that still remains true today, twelve years after her passing. But instead of focusing our energies on her death, we choose instead to focus on her life. Her multihued hair. Her love. Her laugh. Her insatiable desire to grow through other people and other places.
And it is in that spirit, that Ashley’s Foundation was born.