Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Each September brings the nation’s attention to a great cause, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month — a time that will always have a special meaning for Avery Gray and her parents, Keith and Lori Gray.
This year, her other “family” — the Glen Rose High School Lady Tigers volleyball team — made a gesture that showed how much they care for their young teammate, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer when she was only four years old.
As part of the nation’s annual month set aside to highlight childhood cancer awareness, local volunteers once again placed yellow signs and a large yellow ribbon symbol around the Somervell County Courthouse in downtown Glen Rose.
After Avery Gray was diagnosed as having kidney cancer, she was successfully treated. She had a surgery to remove a one-pound tumor from her left kidney before having seven days of radiation treatment at a clinic in Grapevine, followed by chemotherapy at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.
Having now grown into a healthy 14-year-old, Avery now is a member of the varsity as a freshman.
“This February she will be off treatment for 10 years,” Lori Gray said.
On Tuesday the Lady Tigers varsity squad presented Avery with a donation check on Avery’s behalf that will go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in Memphis, Tennessee.
“For them to honor her in that way, I just think it says a lot about them and the (volleyball) program,” Lori said, noting that the girls understood that there are “things out there bigger than volleyball and bigger than themselves. I thought it was so thoughtful. That’s really cool. That’s going above and beyond.”
Sandy Langford, the Lady Tigers’ head coach, said, “The girls and I talked about it,” and prior to the donation they had worn yellow ribbons in their hair denoting cancer awareness, also in Avery’s honor.
“They are selfless, and they are a family. When someone does something, you pull together. That’s what we teach them. It brings them together to look at life a little different.
“A lot of times at that age, they don’t know the right things to say (but) they were excited to present it to (Avery).”
Langford said that the Lady Tigers have previously been involved in helping out as volunteers at the food bank in Glen Rose, PaPa’s Pantry.
Avery’s mother owns and operates Lori Gray Photography, and this will mark the third straight year she will donate all of her September proceeds from her business to St. Jude’s, online.
Lori said that the fact the young ladies on the GRHS team rallied together to make the donation showed that they realize there are “things out there bigger than volleyball and bigger than themselves.”
Avery, a straight-A student and a member of the National Honor Society, has been learning photography from her mother.
Lori, a former volleyball coach and biology teacher, has been coaching a local club volleyball team that Avery plays on in the offseason.
“At the time of her being diagnosed, you don’t know what the future holds,” Lori said of the uncertainty in the ensuing years after Avery’s illness and treatment.
She said that her participation in athletics “was definitely in question,” and for her daughter to now be able to compete at this level in volleyball “is amazing.”
For more information on St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital or to make a donation, go online to forstjude.org.