What have we done with our story? How do champions react to adversity and personal tragedy?
Driven by the Jam the Gym movement, and the ongoing efforts of the Vick family, Jaime's memory continues to be honored by the Jaime Vick Moran Scholarship. Two scholarships are given to Kiski Area senior female athletes every year. This year, three young ladies will receive recognition and be awarded Scholarship funds. Gracie McDermott won first prize, and a $1,000 scholarship and Rachel Frye and Morgan Kiebler tied for second prize and will each receive $500.
It is with great pride that I share Gracie's award winning essay here. I hope you find it as moving and inspiring as I did. All three of these young ladies will represent Jaime's scholarship well!!!
I was a Kiski Area volleyball player during the era of, well, everything. In the six years I spent on the team, I lived through every defining moment that makes KAVB so special. As a seventh grader, I began my journey by learning the ropes of the sport and getting a feel for the first real team I’ve ever really been a part of. Little did I know, this team would go on to change the outcome of the rest of my life.
When I was in eighth grade, Jaime’s leukemia came back. Jodie took over the role of coach as her treatment went on, but I remember how she’d smile when she visited matches every once in a while. Ninth grade was the year of what Ellen calls the “Y-factor.” I watched as Thad Paunovich took to the court despite bleachers full of furious spectators across the WPIAL. In September, we jammed the gym for the very first time. The stands flooded with orange that year, and when I was in tenth grade, they were purple for Jam the Gym 2. When I was just about to enter eleventh grade, we were gathered into a “team meeting” in Pitt’s locker room. I didn’t know it yet, but these gatherings would become all too familiar over the next year.
Jaime was really sick, Ellen told us, and we weren’t sure of how much longer she had left. In August, I got the phone call. Dressed in our purple, my team leaned on each other and mourned the loss of one of the most beautiful women in our lives. A few months later, KAVB rallied the community for the third Jam the Gym. This one was by far the most emotional. I will never forget how we stood hand in hand as we listened to a moving cover of ‘Hallelujah.’
When December came, we lost Jenna. For me, it felt like my entire world was crashing down. Nothing made sense to any of us at that point, but we clung to each other as we tried to understand. As we healed, another bomb was dropped: Ellen’s cancer was back. To no one’s surprise, my team overcame.
Trials of adversity and tragedy have led me here: my very last year as a volleyball player. I was blessed to be chosen as captain of my girls for my senior year and watch them grow over the season. I guess what I’m trying to show with this time line is that, looking back, I was directly affected by everything that has ever happened to our program. To future players, it’ll surely be a story of the past. But for me, it was my present. It was
While I could write a book about everything that I’ve learned through the Kiski Area Volleyball program, I thought I’d save you all some time by zeroing in on only one topic: strength. Being strong, as you know as well as I do, is so much more than a physical quality. After my six years, it is safe to say that I have learned the true meaning of the word.
As an Iron Woman of Maggie Jones’ summer conditioning program, I watched myself grow physically stronger. I pushed myself in practice, building endurance and power for our games. I have never been the most muscular or the fastest girl on the court, but it was incredible to see how my performance was enhanced after a summer of dedication.
The lessons I learned about emotional strength will also always be with me. As you probably know, I am not afraid to express my emotions. I will admit that I spent many days out of the last six years crying because that’s just my way of coping. Through the tears, I have grown stronger in my ability to realize how both beautiful and fragile life is. I understand that nothing should ever be taken for granted. Learning to rise above adversity has given me the strength to overcome absolutely anything that I will encounter in the future.
I feel that the social aspect of strength ties together my whole idea of the word. Being a Kiski Area volleyball player opened my eyes to the overwhelming power a group can possess. I saw how a bunch of teenage girls (and one boy) were able to unify when faced with more turbulence than any team should ever have to go through. Parents, players, and coaches alike rallied for awareness and support. Together, we proved to
the community that strength really is in numbers.
As I start this new and exciting chapter of my life, I am able to reflect upon the undeniable strength this program has taught me. Physical power is important to the definition of ‘strong.’ However, taking emotional and social aspects into consideration has brought me to the most accurate interpretation of the six letter word. The true meaning of strength can be found behind every single member of the Kiski Area volleyball program, including myself. I know that my strength will shine through no matter where I am in life. I can attribute how strong I’ve become to the remarkable story of hope and courage that will be told for generations to come.
Wherever I go, I will always carry
story with me.