By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Following the devastation from the recent tornado that swept through Ohatchee, Etowah High School’s softball team extended a helping hand. On Tuesday, March 30, Etowah’s players presented the Ohatchee softball team with goodie bags and items for their community, sending messages of encouragement and uplifting spirits when needed most.
The girls gifted Ohatchee’s team with an array of bags before a doubleheader in Attalla, which Etowah scheduled prior to the storm. When Etowah’s team learned of the loss the Ohatchee community endured, their hearts went out to the neighboring team. Hoping to deliver some comfort, Etowah head coach Kim Jones reiterated her players’ generosity and partnered with her church to develop the project.
Totes, gift cards, pillows and garbage bags joined the goodie bags filled with treats for the Ohatchee softball team. The Etowah girls gathered items they hoped might garner a smile, collecting fun favorites like candy, cookies, chips and Gatorade alongside practical gifts like Chapstick, scrunchies and Germ-X. Sisters Maggie and Hallie Bennett and their mother created a special bag for one of Ohatchee’s players who was injured and hospitalized following the tornado.
Such a catastrophic event resonated with Jones, whose nephew lives in Ohatchee. Though he sheltered in a church basement safely and the storm thankfully evaded his home, Jones witnessed the aftermath Ohatchee head softball coach Kendall Poe withstood regarding the injury of one of her players. As a coach, Jones’ understood the heaviness Poe, Ohatchee’s staff and team must feel –she and her girls outstretched their arms to alleviate some of that weight.
“Everybody has been through something in life,” said Jones. “[You have to] have a support system. I tell the girls that all the time, ‘I’m here for you, whatever happens, whatever you need.’ I don’t tell them they have teammates – they’re sisters. That’s how they look at it. We just have a really big bond, all the way from our JV and high school girls. They know at any moment something could change and you need somebody to be there for you and willing to help you.”
All members of Etowah’s team echoed their willingness and desire to help however possible.
“I think it’s a great thing that we’re helping out,” said Etowah middle-schooler Maggie Bennett, who plays JV and varsity when needed. “I love helping other people, so I’m really glad we made the goodie bags for the team. It brings joy to me, and I love seeing other people smile.”
“I think it’s such a good thing to be a part of, to get outside our community,” said Etowah Junior Anna Jones. “We try to help around Christmas with people around here, but when [other communities] are in need it’s good to help them. I think it brings us closer as a team. I think us helping them shows that even though on the field we’re against each other, really and truly we’re the same. We’re one big softball family.”
Family represents the atmosphere of Etowah’s softball team, who possess an undeniable bond. Their ceaseless support of one another far surpasses the field, and that same unified nature transcends beyond tournaments into fellowship breakfasts at church, bowling nights and group ice cream outings. If one teammate feels down, another stands beside them to lift them up – enriching practices and games with laughter, friendship and love.
“We don’t do anything for ourselves on this team, it’s all for each other,” said Etowah Junior Abbi Martin. “We all became one family and family is most important. We love each other through thick and thin. We’re going to do anything for each other. If someone is down, you’re going to pick them up. If someone doesn’t get a base hit, you’re going to come behind them and get the hit for them.”
“It makes my heart happy [to see the girls want to help],” said Kim Jones. “It makes a coach’s heart happy when they truly want to be around each other, even when they’re not on the field. If you surround yourself with positive people and people who have the same interests, then you’re more likely to keep on the right path. It’s the little things. If you can’t do the little things, then there’s no way you can do something huge when it’s asked of you.”
While Coach Jones understands that one day, her girls will stop playing softball, the lessons they learn on the field emerge as lifelong treasures. When that day arrives, Jones hopes they will remember the moments that united them, developed their character with service and respect, and never cease becoming the best version of themselves – compassionate and strong individuals ever willing to help.
“I’ve learned how to put my differences aside with other people, especially when I’m here,” said Anna Jones. “When you walk in that door, you’re a Lady Devil and there’s no drama. We know better. Seeing how other people go through their own things, you see that even the people you may not like or associate with, they’re just like you. You’re kind of all going through the same thing. It helps you put yourself in other people’s shoes a little bit. That’s what [softball] has really done for me.”
“[I hope the Ohatchee girls know] they’re not in it alone,” said Martin. “We’re all here to help them, no matter what. Even if we’re against them on the field, we’re still here. We’re all one big community…one family.”