Friday, October 6, 2017

Being Part Of Team Grace

As I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed tonight, I read a post that the Litchfield High School football team raised $250 for a player on the opposing team who is currently battling cancer. I couldn't help but smile as I read through some of the comments, and discovering the money was raised in memory of one of our favorite superheroes, Faith Hartzell.

It hasn't been the best season for the Litchfield football team, as one of their best chances to win this season got away from them tonight. But, regardless of the score, their efforts off the field to help an opposing player truly make them winners in my book.

The top eight volleyball teams with Gracie Lou
It got me thinking about a lot of things. Just this past week, we attended the final check presentation volleyball game from this year's inaugural Montgomery County Invitational volleyball tournament, affectionately dubbed "A Grace-Filled Tourney." Hosted at Hillsboro and Lincolnwood high schools, all four of our county high schools raised over $7,500 for INAD research in honor of our Grace.

Grace and Charley at a Friday night game
I'm sure when each of the 16 teams signed up for the tournament, each hoped they would be the one to take home the trophy. After all, it did have a darling Princess Grace logo on it!  But at the end of the two-day tournament, only one team got to take home the trophy. And only one player on that team got to be named the most valuable player. More than 100 volleyball players competed in the tournament, but still only one gets to be "the best." 

Grace and one of her best preschool buddies, Lauren
Does that mean the other players don't get to win? I don't see it that way. When we showed up at the tournament on Friday night to see some of the county teams play, our family was particularly touched to see players from other towns wearing purple ribbons in their hair or purple socks. None of these players had ever met Grace before. But they still wanted to be part of something that was bigger than the actual game.

Grace's cheering section
Some teams knew they may not finish in the championship bracket, but fought hard to get enough wins to play at Lincolnwood on Friday in the top two brackets, because they knew Grace would be there. But only half the teams made it in the top, and some teams didn't pick up a single win all weekend. I have no doubt those girls played just as hard and with as much heart as the ones who played in the championship game.

The prayer circle before the game
It seems like we all have that inner desire to win and to be the best, and that's a great driving force for all of us to give our best at everything we do. But at the end of the day, not all of us are going to be the one that comes home with the victory, whether it's in a game or a promotion at work. But even when we don't get the win, I hope we'll always still give our best and remember there's something bigger than winning.

Kyle in the "Serving for Grace" fundraiser
Just before the start of the championship game, Grace was presented with a plaque and named an honorary member of the all-tournament team, probably the only time in her life she'll have such an honor. But it certainly warmed my heart. And before the first serve, those top eight teams made a huge circle around the gym and prayed for Grace and those researching INAD to find a cure. A few tears might have fallen down my cheeks, as I stood in awe of the entire gym full of winners, learning to be part of something much bigger than the game.

Kayley and Kensey presented Grace with her all-tournament team plaque
In the end, only one team got to take home Grace's trophy, but I can tell you that all 16 teams will always be a very special part of Team Grace for their efforts off the court. Oftentimes, some of the best stories in sports come from the athletes who learn to give of themselves win or lose. So, remember, it doesn't matter how much playing time you get or how many points you score, what you'll be remembered for is the kindness and compassion you show off the court. And you'll always be a member of Team Grace.