Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A dedication to Coach Fort...

Volley for the Cure

Last week, I received a call from a parent of a volleyball player at Finneytown High School.  She said "our players decided they wanted to dedicate this year's Volley for the Cure to Coach Fort.  We were wondering if you might want to attend?"....

Wow.  OF COURSE we wouldn't miss it...it was amazing.

I have the boys on Mondays, so they got to go with us - they had a blast.
Everyone was so friendly, just like when Melissa was there!

Megan, the head coach when Melissa was the JV coach was there.  She no longer coaches, but is the Dean of Students now.  

Seven of Melissa's players were there, and we received five letters from players  who couldn't make it.  The current varsity players read a beautiful tribute to Melissa:

"On September 25, 2006 the first ever Volley for the Cure match was played by Loveland and Sycamore High Schools to honor two women and their heroic battles against breast cancer.  Since then over 40,000 volleyball players have participated in Volley for the Cure.  During the 2013 season the funds raised are expected to exceed 2 million dollars in support of local Susan G. Komen for the Cure affiliates in the fight against breast cancer.

Tonight we dedicate our matches to former Finneytown JV and Varsity Assistant Coach Melissa Fortener McLaughlin, affectionately known to her players as Coach Fort.  She began her fight against breast cancer when she was just 25 years old.  She was diagnosed in 2003.  In 2007 when she coached at Finneytown, she was receiving chemotherapy for her 2nd reoccurrence.

The very first Volley for the Cure match played at Finneytown was that year.  The players dedicated the game to Coach Fort.  She set an amazing example for her players, for the Finneytown students and faculty and the entire community.  In 2009, Coach Fort lost her battle with breast cancer just 2 days before her 31st birthday.  But in her time at Finneytown, she left an incredible impression of a "Never give up" Spirit that lives in all of us today!  And for that we are here to honor her memory and celebrate her legacy.

Megan Garner will now share a letter from her sister, Samantha, who was one of Coach Fort's players in 2007.

We would like to thank the Fortener's and Mr. McLaughlin for coming tonight.  We are privileged to dedicate the 2013 Finneytown vs. New Richmond Volley for the Cure Match to Coach Fort."

(the letter from Samantha Garner):

"It's been six years since I've played Volleyball for Finneytown High School, and I was one of the privileged to play under Coach Fort on the 2007 JV team.  My first impression of Coach Fort was that she was a fighter and a fierce competitor.  I must admit I was a little intimidated.  She was open about her fight with cancer and encouraged us to ask any questions.  We could never tell if she was having a bad day because she made it a point to show up and kick our butts at each and every practice.

Regardless of what was going on in her private life, she was there in the gym with us: fighting for every dropped ball, every missed serve, and celebrating every ace and sprawl.  Her tough love picked us up when we were down and her competitive spirit taught us never to give up.  I remember when the first Volley for the Cure game Finneytown hosted rolled around and how both the Varsity and JV teams were extremely pumped.  Balloons were blown up, streamers strung, t-shirts were made, and the house was packed in pink.  I couldn't tell you the score of a single game, but I know both teams left it all out
on the court and then some for Coach Fort that evening.

Even though I am unable to make the event this year, my sister will be playing tonight.  It is my hope that she and the other players experience an even more packed house and raise even more money for the cause of breast cancer research.  I'm happy to hear that Coach Fort's family is in the crowd tonight and I hope that you feel an overwhelming sense of support and love.

Coach Fort left her mark on Finneytown High School, especially the hearts of her players.  I entered the gym as a timid freshman and became a leader, a  teammate, and a competitor on and off the court. I am now a junior in college and still have my Coaches Award I received that year on my shelf.  It reminds me of her spirit:  never give up and give everyday your all no matter what life throws at you!

Happy Volley for the Cure!!! And Go WILDCATS!

Tons of Love,
Sam Garner


A couple of things...we DID feel an overwhelming sense of support and love.  From the minute we walked in the door.  

Second, Donny said something that I had forgotten...Melissa had mentioned that she LOVED Finneytown High School as soon as she walked in the door
1) the school colors are blue and red (same as her elementary school)
2) the school mascot is a Wildcat (same as her Junior High)
3) "F" (for Finneytown, Fairmont, Fortener)!

And most of all, she loved coaching.  

There were four more letters, similar to the one that Sam wrote.  It amazes me (in a way) that Melissa was only there for one season.  Probably 3 or 4 months.  And her girls never forgot her.  I think they will always remember her.  I LOVE that she was able to teach them a life lesson through example. One they will carry with them for a long time.  

         Finneytown Varsity-wearing their FORT bracelets!

JV- with FORT bracelets
(notice the red & blue AND "F")

the Finneytown WILDCAT...

former player, Kathryn, had a pink ribbon tattoo for Coach Fort!

 PopPop, Max and Andrew

three of Melissa's former players, and the former Varsity Coach, Megan (3rd from left)
browsing through one of Fort's scrapbooks - the one with her Finneytown pictures.
There were a few tears here...

An funny side note...when I picked up Andrew at the bus stop the other day, he said 
"Pamma, a girl in my class was wearing a Fort sticker today!"  

"She was?  Did it say Fort?"

After a little discussion, I came to realize that she was wear a pink ribbon tattoo.  
Mere said when they were at the store the other day, there was a breast cancer display.  Andrew said "LOOK at all the  Aunt Fort stuff Mommy! Aunt Fort balloons,  Aunt Fort pencils....."

So - anything that has a pink ribbon on it is AUNT FORT.  I love it.

Thank you Finneytown for remembering Coach Fort.  Melissa.  

You will never know how much it means to us!  I am so happy that she left a positive, meaningful impression on teenagers.  That is not an easy accomplishment.  But she did it. We are  so proud of her.  


Not sure if I posted this a few months ago, but I attended a fundraiser sponsored by a local TWIGS group with my good friend Mary Kayser.  Had NO idea what I was getting myself into, but she had two tickets and wanted me to go with her.  So I did.  The proceeds of this fundraiser went to Children's Medical Center, specifically for children with Childhood Cancers.  A cause close to my heart.
The guest speakers were a 12 year old girl who had leukemia, and her mother.  Her mother started her speech with "I got the call NO mother ever wants to get.  Your child has cancer".  It was all over for me then.  I spent a lot more than I had, and had no problem doing it because it was going for a good cause.  In the Live Auction, there was basket that had close to $600 in tickets for Kings Island, Boonshoft, Newport Aquarium, Youngs Dairy and lots more stuff.  I thought I got a pretty good deal (for $375.  I've NEVER been to an auction before.  My hand just kept going up.  And before you knew it, the basket was MINE.)  Donny wasn't as excited as I was about all the cool things in the basket (including a cooler and a blanket, didn't really need more of those...)but I was happy to make the donation.  Which leads us to the Kings Island tickets.  At the bottom of the tickets, it said "GOOD UNTIL THE END OF THE 2013 SEASON"  in smaller print, it said September 2. Duh.
We didn't see the September 2.  

So.  We were going to Kings Island on Sunday, September 22, got the kids all excited. Then Nick looked a little closer at our tickets.  SIX OF THEM.  (oh, about $150 worth) only to find out they were expired.  UGH.

So we had to think of something QUICK, something that was OPEN that would make the kids happy...the Columbus Zoo!  Perfect.  It was a beautiful day, not too crowded got to see lots of animals and the kids loved it.  They also had a Pumpkin Carving Competition - very talented carvers!

Riding a rhino...

Enjoy the great weather while we have it!

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