It's been less than a week and we have already made our mark on the local volleyball community. What's the hurry, you say? As club seasons wind down, spring turns to summer, and volleyball camp plans are starting to be made! This is one of the focuses of We Serve First.
It would be impossible to accomplish any of this without the contributions many of you have made at our GoFundMe site.( http://www.gofundme.com/um4uxs ) We will in the near future talk about other fundraising ideas, but for now your donations have made all the difference. Your generosity is what is driving this idea faster than anything. It is what made our first endeavor possible, but before I tell you about that, let me explain some of the inspiration behind We Serve First.
A while back I ask Courtney Thompson(shameless name drop) if there was a moment of inspiration that changed everything that came after it. She detailed for me a meeting in her dorm room in London after losing to the Brazilians and settling for a Silver Medal...
"I was sitting in my room with Tama and Christa... and we went over everything; how we were feeling, how it all went so fast, what we wish we did differently... but most importantly the conversation quickly left the subject of 'what just happened' and changed to 'what could happen.' I will never forget that talk with two of my best friends as we sat there, looked at each other, and all agreed that we have to come back. With very few words, the three of us committed to doing everything within our power to help this team and this program not only get back to the Olympic Final, and the pinnacle of our sport, but equally important to us was HOW we were going to do that. What would this program stand for, what would we be about, how would we represent our country, how would we impact the community around us as we strive to reach our full potential everyday... these were the thoughts that consumed us and ignited the fire. It was such a powerful moment after such an intense experience of playing in our first Olympics, mixed with the heartbreak of not playing our best when we most wanted to... and the motivation that was locked in at that moment was like nothing I had ever felt before. I go back to it all the time... and within me, it's the foundation of what we've worked so hard to build in the last two years. It's something that I'm incredibly thankful for, as I know I wouldn't be the player or person I am without going through all that. It's also a special experience to go through high's and low's such as this with close teammates. Every time Tama and Christa (or any other teammate) share their dreams and ideas for what could be... it just adds to that level of motivation. The power in committing to something as a group never ceases to amaze me, and I'm thankful for every teammate of mine that continues to bring inspiration every day."
I have thought a lot about these words ever since Ellen and I got word that her cancer had returned, and how that feeling of loss could be the catalyst for something bigger, something great. As Court so eloquently put it "how would we impact the community around us as we strive to reach our full potential everyday..." Yes finding out that the person you most love in the world has cancer does not compare with taking a silver medal home from London, but still, WE MUST BE BETTER. It is the only way to win. It wasn't long before our plan was in place and the words that leaped from the Jam the Gym 5 tee shirt "We Serve First" resounded and spoke to how we would approach our new idea! Later Ellen would text me these words...
"Flip the coin, choose to serve"
We had a motto!
Our mission would be to help volleyball families with medical issues financially so that student athletes could begin or start their club careers or attend camp.
So fast forward. We had a great reaction to our initial GoFundMe post, so much so that we decided to start looking for our first benefactor. We had spoken to a few people in the local volleyball community, and Mike Bruno had a great suggestion. He had posted and shared a video about a team manager for a Junior High team from McKeesport. Danielle List suffers from CDG syndrome type 1A. She uses a wheelchair to get around, but on one inspirational day, with the help of her father Jeff, she subbed into, and played across the back row in a game versus Gateway. ( http://triblive.com/mobile/8124123-96/danielle-game-list )
Mike reminded us about the List family and informed us that Danielle's older sister Courtney played at Serra Catholic. The inspiration provided by Danielle helped us find Courtney and it was decided. The List family from McKeesport would be the first to receive our "vollership". ,
I knew that both Kristin Carpenter and Deja McClendon(more shameless name dropping), two of our "Five Question" alums, were coming to CalU for Tri-State's Camp ( http://www.tristateelitevb.net/teams/?u=TSEVB&s=htosports ) in late June. I made phone call to camp director Gary Lusko and he offered to help us in anyway he could. He also mentioned that he would work on making a day available for Danielle to join Courtney at CalU and get a chance to meet some of the instructors at his camp! Gary was extremely helpful in pulling this all together. It was an easy call to have Tri-State be a big part in We Serve First's initial project!
I found Courtney and Danielle's dad Jeff on Facebook and sent him a friend request. I messaged him about We Serve First and he was enthusiastic about it from the start. Soon it was clear that the List family was the perfect fit for We Serve First. Courtney will head to camp in June and sharpen her skills for her senior year at Serra Catholic. Many of the people I have talked to already have raved about her work ethic and her passion for the game. We are really excited to have her be our first success story!
Throughout our story there have been these collisions. How Jaime happened into the gym and became our Asst. Coach, how Mike Bruno became a big part of Jam the Gym with his squad from Point Park. How he guided us to Danielle and Courtney List, and how another Courtney and her teammates, inspired by a loss, taught us to think big on a tough day. All of these things make up the story of We Serve First, and even though we're just getting started, I like where we are heading.
"Flip the coin and choose to SERVE!"
We Serve First!