SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT (April 4, 2017) - The track and field teams of Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) are dedicating their performances at the 2017 Seventh Annual UIW Invitational College Meet hosted by the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) on April 7-8 to a special organization.
The men's and women's teams selected the Amazing Grace Organization.
Head Coach Stephen Sherman explained their decision: "The Amazing Grace Organization is a charity that the athletes on our team, Coach Terry Smith, and myself have chosen to get behind because of the amount of lives cancer has affected and because of the identification with the foundation's founder Grace Waller as a former high school and collegiate athlete.
"Her story is one of courage and is very motivational to say the least. We hope that our efforts in raising money will go a long way in helping make the quality of life for the beneficiaries of the Amazing Grace Organization that much better."
On the Amazing Grace Organization web site is the story of Grace Waller, who a week after competing in her state high school swimming finals, she learned she had a tumor in her femur and, following a biopsy, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer). She had to turn from swim competitions to fighting cancer. Waller began chemotherapy, and after a few months, she had surgery to remove the tumor, six inches of her femur, the surrounding muscle, and her entire knee. This was followed by surgery to install an artificial femur and knee. The surgery was a success and for the next eight months she continued her follow-up chemotherapy treatments. About a year following her diagnosis, as a junior in high school, Waller completed her 20th and final round of chemotherapy, giving her the opportunity to return to the pool.
Waller never gave up her dream of swimming at the collegiate level, and through perseverance, she received a scholarship to swim at an NCAA Division I school. After finishing her collegiate career, she was eager to give back to the cancer community. She did this by forming the Amazing Grace Organization - a nonprofit organization created to spread joy and happiness to those battling cancer. Waller recalled how special she felt throughout her treatment when she received care packages from her family and friends to help her get through the process. The packages included a suitcase filled with individually wrapped gifts, each marked to be opened at specific times throughout the days that she was in the hospital receiving treatment. She recalled being excited about the gifts, and she looked forward to opening them up during the long hours she spent in her hospital bed. Waller's aim for the Amazing Grace Organization is to provide similar experiences for those receiving treatment for cancer, lifting their spirits and encouraging strength.
Jazmine Garcia (JR/San Ygnacio, Texas) said that the Amazing Grace Organization is special to her on a personal level. "My friend Thalia, who now runs for UT-RGV, had cancer in high school, and she told me the day we went to the regional track meet."
The Saints hope that the community joins them in their effort to support such a wonderful organization. Those interested in donating funds can access the teams' website at https://give.classy.org/ollutrack2016. Donations can be made toward the team as a whole or toward any individual team member.
The Saints also invite the community to the UIW meet. More information on the event can be found here.
NAIA Champions of Character program
Efforts such as this are encouraged by the NAIA's Champions of Character program that aims to instill five core values in NAIA athletes, coaches: respect, responsibility, integrity, servant leadership, and sportsmanship. Our Lady of the Lake University shares and supports these values and strives to promote the Champions of Character program by working with students, coaches through our Champions of Character educational program. Click here for other Champions of Character activities at OLLU.