Many of the young ladies on the Paradise Adventist Academy girls’ volleyball team were among those who lost everything in the California wildfires. But when they showed up for the state semifinals game against Forest Lake Christian School, their opponents had a big surprise waiting for them.
According to The Daily Caller, the girls’ volleyball team from Paradise Adventist Academy in Northern California went to their November 10 semifinal game expecting to play in T-shirts with their names and numbers printed in marker — but their opponents at Forest Lake Christian (FLC) School had other ideas, surprising Paradise’s girls with new jerseys and over $16,000 in donated funds.
“There were two or three (girls) that didn’t have anything, they lost everything in the fire,” Paradise volleyball coach Jason Eyer explained. “And four or five more didn’t have their jersey or their shoes. More than half of the team lost something they needed for that night.”
In spite of their losses, however, the girls still wanted to play. So they packed up and drove the 80 miles to Forest Lake Christian School. “It was really good to have something normal in our lives to bring us together and bring our community together,” said Paradise player Quincey Carter.
When the Paradise Adventist Academy team arrived at the gym, they found their 12 new uniforms. “We saw the jerseys with socks and kneepads and shorts and there were bags with jerseys and shoes,” said Carter. “We don’t even know how they pulled that together so quickly. It was just a feeling of overwhelming love.”
But FLC’s generosity didn’t end there. After the game, the team was presented with gift cards and cash donations and directed to a room full of donated clothes and toiletries. Even more impressive was the fact that coach Travis Smith says the whole plan came together in about 24 hours.
“To have our community show up in such a huge way, I’m still blown away by it,” he said. “I’ve never seen that many people in our gym, and there were people there who had never watched a volleyball game in their life, but they came to support what we were doing.”
When he learned that Paradise would still be coming to play, Forest Lake Christian Athletic Director LaRon Gordon wasted no time. He set up a meeting with school administrators to see what they could do to help. First, they called the California Interscholastic Federation and persuaded them to waive the fans’ entrance fee for the game. Then they contacted everyone they knew and asked for donations.
“We got out and called our friends, community, got on social media,” Gordon said. “And we set up three little bins outside the school (for donations).” By the next day, the bins were overflowing. “The whole front of the school was jam-packed full of donations,” he said. “You couldn’t even walk into the school from the front. You can’t imagine it.”
The night before the game, Gordon had another idea. He called a close friend and located a company that agreed to work overnight to make jerseys for the Paradise team. [Source: CNN]
Coach Eyer responded to the gesture after the game, saying, “I’ve never been so overwhelmed by so many things I would have never thought possible, and this is one of the most amazing things I could ever have thought would happen. Your community is awesome and we are forever grateful.”
While FLC ultimately won the match against Paradise Adventist Academy, Smith said that it was about much more than just winning. “That [match] was what our season was all about,” he said. “It was literally one of the highlights of my life. You can take something like a NorCal final four game, which is an accomplishment in and of itself, and turn that into an outpouring of love for the other team. Those are the makings of a really good movie.”
While the overwhelming destruction of the wildfires in California has been difficult to witness, the goodness of people from the surrounding communities who have come out of the woodwork to support their neighbors in their time of need has been nothing short of inspiring.