MONTGOMERY – Spring Garden junior pitcher Kerstin Bryant remembers being in awe at last year’s Class 1A state softball tournament of Brantley outfielder Alex Wilcox.
Wilcox is not only an outstanding softball player, but she’s also a cancer survivor. She’s battled ovarian cancer for more than a year, and recently had her prep softball career come to an end.
Bryant and the rest of the Lady Panthers knew their paths would cross again with Brantley at the state tournament, and they all wanted to show their support for the off-field battle Wilcox is going through.
“She’s an amazing ball player,” Bryant said of Wilcox. “Last year we saw her killing the ball and doing her job out in the field. Knowing she had cancer and that she could still do all of that, and knowing she has it again, I know she wants to be out here as much as any of us, if not more. It’s her senior year, so we wanted to get her something. I know she loves the game. You can tell by the way she plays. We wanted to get her something just to let her know we’re praying for her.”
That led Bryant to think of Venecia’s Foundation in Piedmont.
The foundation, named in honor of Piedmont cancer victim Venecia Butler, is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide aid, support, and comfort to cancer patients. It was founded May 22, 2013.
“Whenever we heard she wasn’t going to be playing at the state tournament this year, we thought, ‘Why don’t we get her something from The Venecia Foundation?,’” Bryant said. “We know she’s going to be traveling back and forth from the hospital, so we thought that may help her a little bit.”
Venecia’s Foundation donated a care package for Wilcox, which was delivered by the Lady Panthers prior to their state tournament game against Brantley on Thursday at Lagoon Park. Blankets, chapstick, pajamas and other items were included in the care package. The Lady Panthers even signed a card with well wishes for Wilcox during her battle.
Bryant said Wilcox was touched by the support the Lady Panthers showed her.
“She was really happy,” Bryant said. “I don’t think she expected it at all. It made me feel good to know that she knew we at Spring Garden are praying for her.”
Spring Garden softball coach Ann Welsh said she’s proud of her team for their gesture. They may be rivals on the softball diamond, but both teams are on the same side when it comes to combating cancer.
“I hate that a young teenager like her has to suffer through that,” Welsh said. “I think it was great that our girls were able to think of that (care package). They’re genuinely concerned about her and her condition.
“Brantley is someone who has beaten us several times. I think we’ve lost five times to them since we’ve been coming to state, but they were concerned about her. We gave it (the care package) to her before we played Thursday. They all took a picture to send to the Venecia Foundation. It was all very touching. She was moved, and our girls were moved too.”
Brantley defeated Spring Garden in five innings on Thursday by the final of 13-0. The Lady Bulldogs went on to finish as state runner-up to Sumiton Christian in the Class 1A title game on Friday, ending their three-year reign as state champions.
Spring Garden finished in the top four after losing to the eventual state champions on Friday.
“We all share a love for the game,” Bryant said. “We’re all brought together by softball.”