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The Day My Village Came Together

If you have not already read my blog post titled, The Pot Of Gold At The End, go read it first as it will give you a little bit of background into this post.

Coming off of the summer of 2019 and getting back into school was a challenge in itself. Our school had grown and was bursting at the seams. Many teachers were asked to give up their classrooms and become traveling teachers. This meant that teachers would teach all of their classes in different rooms throughout the day. They would use other teacher's classrooms during their prep periods to teach their classes. I ended up being one of those teachers. I taught Spanish in an English classroom, in a Math classroom, and in three other teacher's Spanish classrooms. I was out of my comfort zone every single day, and every single day someone else was watching me teach. It was like your annual review at work being done every day. Every discipline problem, someone else was watching. Every challenge I faced with lessons, technology, student motivation, and curriculum was being watched day in and day out by multiple teachers every day. Let's just say I was really stressed.

My escape every day was to get in my truck, drive the 20+ miles across Phoenix to practice, and get my toes in the sand every day with the kids. As many of you who are coaches know, your team can be your salvation. Mine ended up being my salvation in more ways that I could ever imagine.

From my hospitalization over the summer, the bills were starting to come in. My insurance had denied my claim saying it was "out of network". Apparently you're not allowed to have a health emergency while you are out of state. Who knew? Being and a teacher and a coach, paycheck to paycheck is just a way of life. It always has been. I save here and there, but then the washing machine breaks, or the truck needs new tires, or there is some expense that always comes along. Any of you who have ever had an ER visit know that every person who sees you sends a bill. Every tiny piece of everything that they give you or do for you is billed. Heck, even the guy who reads the test results for you bills you. My experience was no different and the bills were piling up to the tune of about $8,500. As they would come in, I would put them on my credit card so be paid off later. You know, the American way.

One day I was at practice early. Ryan was giving a private lesson to one of our players and I just happened to get there early while he was doing it. I sat down to talk to the father of this player. The gentleman was currently going through chemo treatments and he and I got to talking about medical bills and hospitals and insurance and all things associated. I couldn't even imagine not only his struggle, but what his bills had to be like for his treatments. As his son came up the stairs to grab some water, I was telling him that my $8,500 in bills paled in comparison to what he must have mounting. The gentleman just kind of chuckled and said, yeah, I am just grateful for good insurance. I think it is important to talk to people about the things that they are going through and to try to genuinely relate to them in some way. I think each person's struggles are important and that having a conversation about them is important in EVERYONE'S process for dealing with the hardships in life. I think it is important to celebrate their successes with them and to get to hear their story told when times are tough. We can't always offer advice. We can't always give them the words that they need to hear in that moment to help them through, but we can ALWAYS be there to talk to them and show them that we genuinely care.

I think that is one of the many pieces about being a part of RPM that has been cool. We try to find ways to give back that matter to the people in our program, in our family. We have done everything from food drives to volunteering to make food at the food banks to boxing meals for people at the holidays to doing toy drives and delivering Christmas gifts to families in need. We try to show our athletes that it isn't enough to just be good at your sport. It is also important to be an example. I'm a superhero junkie, so I'll quote a line by Peter Parker in Spiderman from time to time with the kids.

"With great power comes great responsibility."

I think our athletes are realizing more and more just how much younger athletes look up to them. The "be like Mike" phenomenon is a powerful thing within our club and we want to make sure that example is set from the top down.

In the fall of 2019 we were working on putting together a charity event to benefit Autism Speaks. This is a charity that has become very near and dear to our hearts and something we have become passionate about learning more about. As the planning stages of the event were going, we threw all kinds of brainstorming ideas out there. Then, one day, Ryan came up with the idea to do a "rent a pro" event. Using his connections, Ed Ratledge, Sarah Sponcil, Jake Gibb, and Casey Patterson all committed to come out and play in the event. We were really excited.

The fall wore on and the details of the event were becoming more and more clear. I woke up on the morning of November 28th. It was Thanksgiving day and my family was at my house. I was going about my morning and hanging with my family when my phone buzzed. I picked it up to see that I had been tagged in a post. I opened it up to see what it was and started crying. I stopped the video that was playing and had to sit down. I was in shock. I started the video over as my mom came over to see what was going on. She looked over my shoulder as the following video played.

I was speechless! Who? What? Why? Wow! I couldn't even find words. As I saw my players faces and heard so many kind words, I just sobbed. At this point, I had absolutely no idea what was going on! It was Thanksgiving and I was receiving the most beautiful tribute a coach could ask for. It was incredible! The video has 700+ views as of today and I bet at least 100 of them are from me! When the video finished I started texting people, thanking people, and trying to figure out who was behind this so that I could give them a huge hug. I still didn't know at this point that it was connected to a Go Fund Me account that was raising money to pay for my medical bills. When I found that part out I was even more floored. What makes people so incredible? What is it that makes human beings so giving and kind? I sure would like to know because my entire village stepped up for me that day! Families donated money, kids i had worked with donated their hard earned money. It was absolutely incredible. I finally figured out who had done it and there were no words to express how grateful I was and still am to that person.

The Go Fund me was still going and we were still planning our charity event. Ryan was hard at work getting details sorted out, courts rented, shirts made, and volunteers to work the event. The morning of the event came and I got up early. My job was to head to the airport that morning to pick up Olympian Jake Gibb and get him out to the event. I got to the airport and got a text from him telling me which door he was at, swooped him up, and we were off. We stopped by a store on the way there so he could pick up some Rockstar (One of Jake's sponsors), and headed out to the event.

When we arrived there were literally hundreds of people there!People put in 4's teams and got the opportunity to rent one of the pros to play on their team for a game. It was an incredible format. Clubs from all over the valley had players come out to be a part of it. Player's parents and families were there. The pro's spent the day playing on people's teams, signing autographs, and interacting with people. There were raffles and prizes were given away and due to the generosity of so many, we raised over $13,000 to give to Autism Speaks. It was such a humbling experience to see so many people willing to donate to the cause. I was so glad I got to be apart of it!

Pool play of the tournament was in the morning and Marc Townsend was on the mic all morning giving shout-outs to people and heckling. Doc Ricky was walking around making sure everyone knew what court to be on and when. No one was complaining, no one was stressed, everyone was just there to have fun. My old volleyball partner, Shane Miller, even made the trek down from Boise, Idaho to play in the event.

When pool play ended there was some time while seeding was being done for the bracket. I was milling around talking to people and thanking them for coming out. Marc got on the microphone and called everyone over. We wanted to get a picture of everyone who came out to play in the event. We all gathered by the net and snapped a few pictures and then he called everyone over to the tournament table to announce where everyone was going for bracket play.

I was in the back of the crowd when my name was announced. I stepped forward as Marc was talking and the next thing I knew, Sarah Sponcil and Jake Gibb were walking toward me with a giant check. the Go Fund Me had been a huge success and Bounce Beach, RPM Sand, and so many other people had raised $8,500 to pay for ALL of my medical bills. I was shocked, surprised, and as I stood in front of hundreds of people to accept the check, I was speechless. I went on to post the following on my Instagram later that day:

As we make our way through this world, people impact our lives. Some may never know it. Some you get the opportunity to thank. The hardest part is, when the moment comes, how do you encompass in words just what another human being means to you? How do you show enough gratitude for impact that changes your life? Today as I stood in front of so many people, humbled to the core as @smsponcil handed me a giant check on behalf of @rpm_sand @bouncebeach and so so many others, I couldn’t find the right words. As I sit here typing, those words still don’t come to mind. All I can say is thank you to everyone who donated. Thank you to everyone who was a part of putting this together. Thank you to all of you who checked in on me over the summer while I wasn’t myself. Thank you to those of you who didn’t even really know me but saw another human being in need. I can never repay the kindness that you have all shown me. @parconley You earned my respect long long ago. From all accounts, this was your doing. I am truly grateful. I can’t pay it back, I only hope to be able to pay it forward. I hope that the kindness that you have all shown me can be passed on to others each day in my life. This moment was incredible, you people are incredible! Thank you! #rpmfamily4life

There are some moments in life that as you sit down to take the time to try to describe them, you can't. The most beautiful parts in life there are no words for. I can absolutely never begin to explain how much everyone that was a part of that moment affected my life. While it was absolutely INCREDIBLE to have my financial situation changed that day, it was the love that everyone showed me in making it happen that will leave a mark on me forever. My faith in humanity, in the people I surround myself with, and in the power of giving something that can never be repaid is rock solid and always will be for me now.

If you enjoyed reading this post, check out the rest of my blog. It includes stories, tips, articles, videos, links, and products that hopefully you can find useful.

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