Monday, February 1, 2016

Proud To Be A Lady Topper

Last January, the Hillsboro girls basketball team made Grace an honorary Lady Topper. At the time, it was just about a month since we first shared that our little girl had this incredibly rare, incredibly awful genetic condition that many of us know all too much about by now. It was also the first time that any of the teams that I had covered had done something at a game for Grace. It was an experience so brand new to us, that we were not only late, but I missed the team talking to Grace completely because I just dropped Mary off at the door and parked the car.

Grace got to be an honorary Hiltopper again this weekend, and got a new Pete the Cat!
Since then, many other teams have done things for our princess, from purple bows to signed balls to stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes. It never gets old and it always leaves me in awe of the generosity of the coaches and the players. Particularly the players. I can remember when I was 16 or 17 and I'm not sure I would have had the spirit to do what they have done.

At an early season game, the three Topper seniors came to see Grace.
Ranking which team event for Grace is the most special is like trying to decide your favorite child or favorite flavor of pie, but the latest game on Saturday, Jan. 30, almost a year to the day of Grace's first experience as a Lady Topper, ranks right up there. Earlier this season Grace came to a Hillsboro girls basketball game with me and it provided me with one of the best moments of the season. As soon as I walked in the door, the three seniors on this year's team, Lindsey Storm, Maddy Reck and Carly Cameron, flocked to Grace and treated her like she was the most important person in the gym.

The last time we saw the Hillsboro/Litchfield game, Grace got high-fives as the team ran in.
For those of you who know Grace, she ate this up. Her favorite thing has always been when people smile at her and tell her how beautiful she is. She just lights up and doles out the biggest smile she can muster, which in turn brings more smiles and compliments. It's a beautiful cycle.

At the state golf tournament, Lindsey wore a special purple ribbon for Grace.
These are Lindsey's basketball shoes for this season.
Since our visit to the Lady Toppers' home game, we've done our best to show our support to our team, often on social media. We've cheered when they've won, which has been often, and supported them when they've lost. They're an easy group to cheer for, both on the court and off. Lindsey Storm has particularly made an impact on our family. During golf season, she wore a purple bow in her hair during the postseason and a gracelets in honor of Grace at the state tournament. Early in the basketball season she asked if it was okay if she wrote Grace's name on her shoes as a way to recognize her. Both acts blew Mary and I away and we feel truly blessed that Lindsey has formed such a connection with Grace.

Hanging out with my favorite Lady Topper!

Hanging out with daddy before the start of the game.
Saturday's game was the second meeting between Hillsboro and another Team Grace member, Litchfield. I have a love/hate relationship with the cross-county games, because it's always more fun for me to see a Montgomery County team win and somebody has to lose in these contests. Still, the Hillsboro/Litchfield girls game is a must see for the Herschelman family due to the support we have received from both communities. The previous game at Litchfield provided a pretty memorable moment as Lindsey asked if the team could high-five Grace on their way back out to the court before the game. It was a pretty special moment, especially when I looked back on the pictures Mary took and see all the smiles on the players' faces.

Grandma Kim's favorite Lady Topper too!
Grace's cheering section! Every one of us had a different Grace shirt on!
This Saturday, the smiles were there again as the team invited us to come to the floor before the game began and presented Grace with her very own Pete the Cat stuffed animal and a copy of Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses that was signed by the whole team. Again Grace loved the attention and snuggled Pete for most of the game, which Hillsboro won in a close, fun game to watch.

At halftime of the game, Lindsey asked if she could get her photo taken with Grace. She later posted it on Facebook and said, "it's not every day you get to take a picture with someone you look up to so much." 
After the game, we were talking to Carly Cameron's parents and her father Clark said that as proud as he was of the girls on the court, he was even more proud of them off of it. I can't echo that statement enough and I hope they know how much it means to us to have them on our journey.


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