TEMPLE — The Ellison spikers are in the midst of a busy District 8-6A schedule with playoff aspirations, but Saturday afternoon they took a step back and put everything into perspective.
Each player in the Lady Eagles’ volleyball program — the freshman, junior varsity and varsity units — bought a gift, loaded up on two buses and delivered them to McLane Children’s Scott & White Hospital.
Ashley Blackmon, a child life specialist at the facility, said hospitals can be a scary place for children. But donations like the one received Saturday can help normalize the environment and make kids much more comfortable.
“We’re super lucky,” Blackmon said. “This is a huge donation. Sometimes, we get small individual ones from families who feel led to give to the hospital, but big donations like these don’t come in that often.
“We’re kind of dwindling in our supplies right now. Our next big tour drive will be in December for Christmas, so this is really going to help us get through these next couple months till December, which is awesome.”
The Ellison volleyball program participates in different community service projects every year.
Head coach Sarah Stolley said it is important not only for the girls to give back, but to step away from the grind of both school and athletics and appreciate what they have.
“Sometimes, we’re in volleyball mode nonstop,” Stolley said. “So it’s nice to just take a break and talk to the kids about the importance of this kind of thing — kind of open up their eyes to a bigger view than just the gym. ...
“I think something that can make somebody smile is good for their health. It’s something we’ve talked about with these girls before — you take your health for granted. You get mad that I make you run a mile early Wednesday morning, but just be thankful you can do it.”
Jakarta Hope, sophomore setter on the Lady Eagles’ varsity squad, echoed her coach’s sentiment.
“People take good health for granted,” Hope said. “So, coming in here and doing this for the kids makes me feel amazing, and I’m pretty sure the rest of the team feels the same.”
Jasmin Espada, sophomore defensive specialist on Ellison’s JV team, said the experience made her reflect upon and appreciate her childhood, and she simply hoped Saturday’s donation puts a smile on many young faces.
“I’ve been able to be active and play sports my whole life,” Espada said. “My family is very active, and I really just hope the things that we brought can cheer them up.”
Supplying the gifts was especially meaningful to McKenzie Tysor, middle blocker on the freshman team. Her father has had to spend a significant amount of time in the hospital, and her family was always grateful and appreciative of such gestures during those times.
“We believe it’s important to give more than we receive,” Tysor said. “I know how gifts would change and brighten his and my family’s day, and I want to pay it forward.”