Saturday, February 27, 2016

Team Grace

Although I am a Hillsboro Hiltopper and Kyle is a Lincolnwood Lancer, we have been embraced by teams all over Montgomery County. In addition to the Hiltoppers and the Lancers, Grace now sports team gear from the Litchfield Purple Panthers, Nokomis Redskins and Morrisonville Mohawks. We affectionately refer to all the love and support from high school teams all over as part of Team Grace.

It's a good thing we have this blog, because I can't even remember the number of sporting events we have attended this past year in honor of Grace. We feel SO blessed by the number of teams that consider Grace an honorary member, and she definitely loves all the attention.  We hope you enjoy a recap of a few fun nights from the last few weeks.

Lincolnwood Lancers
At the preview night for the boys basketball season this year, the team started collecting money for Grace and for INAD research. Kyle brought Grace that night, where she caught up with some of her favorite cheerleaders, cousins Kayley and Kensey Armour.

The team continued to collect money throughout the season with a special fundraiser between the junior varsity and varsity games.  Coach Matt Millburg asked us to come to the last home game of the season and be part of the senior night festivities. Unfortunately, we had already promised the crew at Nokomis High School, we would take Grace to a game there that night, but Kyle stood in as a representative for all of us.

Coach Millburg presented Kyle with $1,000 for INAD research.
He was planning to go and take photos at senior night, so he just posed for one himself before he left. They very generously gave us $1,000, which we put up for INAD research.  Just a week later, Will Gunn called Kyle for another donation. The school's community service organization had received just over $500 from the Central Illinois Blood Center, for their hard work in hosting local blood drives.  They got to pick any charity to donate to, and they picked Grace and INAD research.

It was definitely a great night to be a Lancer.

Nokomis Redskins
It was also a wonderful night to be a Redskin!  Several weeks before, the Nokomis Athletic Club asked if we would bring Grace to a game when the Redskins hosted the Hillsboro Hiltoppers. But we were at Walt Disney World that weekend, so it didn't work out.

We were SO honored that the Nokomis Athletic Club honored us at a basketball game.
Instead, they picked one of the final home games of the season, and Kyle met Grace and I in Nokomis after he finished up his duties in Raymond.  We spent some time in the lobby visiting with Nokomis Athletic Club members Julie Knodle and Missy Keiser, who had a bright red Arrowhead Open shirt for Grace to wear!

Grace got a beautiful new purple and white quilt, made by Marian Kimbro.
We made our way to the gym, where we found a seat in the front row so Grace could watch the basketball game.  At halftime, Julie invited us down to the floor for a special presentation. We knew they had a donation for the INAD study, but they totally spoiled us the night we were there.  In addition to giving more than $600 for INAD research, they presented us with a purple and white quilt, made by the boys basketball coach's mom, Marian Kimbro.  She donated the quilt to the group with the stipulation that it had to be used for something special, and they were honored to give it to Grace.

The girls basketball team had some presents for Grace, including basketball roses.
Then, members of the girls basketball team gave Grace some basketball roses, which are sitting in a vase on her dresser, and a picture frame with her name in the middle. All the players on the girls team signed the frame, and we hung it up in her room as well.  The boys basketball team presented Grace with a red Redskins visor and some red and black balloons, which have always been one of her favorites.

Kyle had the chance to tell our story.
Kyle talked a little bit about how honored we were to be part of the family, and thanked everyone for their generous donations.  We sat down to watch the end of the game, and Julie shared her popcorn with Grace, which was also a huge hit. After the game was over, a fan from the opposing team handed Kyle a donation for the study, and said they would keep us in their thoughts and prayers.

Snuggles with my sweet Grace.
We are always thrilled for a chance to share Grace's story with our community and make new friends along the way.

Lincolnwood Junior High Volleyball
This week, we headed back to where it all started, the Lincolnwood Junior High School volleyball team. Last year, Kayley and Kensey were eighth grade members of the team, and they were one of the first to join Team Grace last year.

Many of the team members wore purple ribbons in their hair for Grace.
At the start of every game, they had a table set up to hand out gracelets, and also take donations for research. For the past two years, they have offered a Serving for Grace fundraiser, where a donation gets you a chance to enter your name into the contest. Between the seventh and eighth grade games, they draw a few names, and the lucky winners get the chance to serve a volleyball onto targets on the other side. Those who are successful win great prizes donated by local businesses.

Kyle enjoyed his chances to Serve for Grace.
Coach Kimberly Denny invited us to the last home game of the season this year, and we arrived just in time for the end of the seventh grade game, so we found a spot on the bleachers with Grandma Kim.  And before long, they started the final Serving for Grace fundraiser of the season. Although some of the participants got close, no one managed to hit the target this night. But as an added bonus, the last person called up to serve for the evening was Kyle, who took it in stride, even if his serves didn't make it close to the targets.

The eighth grade team members brought presents to Grace.
We looked out into the crowd, where so many of the fans were wearing purple in honor of Grace. It's just so amazing to see such love and support from a dedicated community.

Just before the eighth grade team members were honored, they had a special presentation for Grace. We took her in her stroller to the middle of the gym, where the four eighth graders gave her pink and purple flowers, orange and purple balloons, a gift card to Dairy Queen and $650 for INAD research. Of course, the biggest hit for Grace was the balloons, and we were thrilled to be able to donate even more to the research.

So blessed to be part of the Lincolnwood family.
I got the chance to thank everyone for their generosity, and Kyle helped Grace play with her balloons and flashing smiles to the crowd.  We made our way back to our seats to watch the eighth grade team lose a close one in three games.

After the game was over, we headed over to thank Coach Denny, who made Kyle promise not to use Grace's Dairy Queen card himself. Grace was also greeted by several young fans, including Jaylee and Paislei Krager, who always make time to stop and see her every time they can.

Coach Denny got the chance to talk to Grace before the game too.
This is the third time Coach Denny and her teams have recognized Grace, and we are blessed beyond measure to be part of the Lancer family.

County Baseball Tournament
Up next for Team Grace will be the County Baseball Tournament on Saturday, April 16 in Litchfield. All four high schools will be represented there, and it will be the culmination of the temporary license plate fundraiser.

The specialty license plates, featuring "A Grace-Filled Journey" logo, arrived this week, and we can't wait to put BEAT INAD on our two vehicles. It's been fun to see people post photos on Facebook of their vehicles with a new Grace plate, and the plates may be used through April.

Check out the new Grace shirts with all the school logos!
As part of the festivities, the Litchfield Student Council is selling new "A Grace-Filled Journey" shirts, with all four county high school mascots on the back. They read "Go Mont. Co Beat INAD Win the Battle." Mine has already arrived, and Kyle's and Grace's should be in soon too.  We even heard that Tessa Steffens and her softball teammates at Purdue Calumet will be wearing the new shirts to warm up this season.  How cool is that?!

When we started this "Grace-Filled Journey," we hoped to raise around $10,000 for INAD research and share our story to raise awareness. More than $100,000 later, we hope to take our story and our platform to a national level this year. With community support like this, Team Grace is gonna take on the world. Thanks for being part of our "Grace-Filled Journey."


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