Catching hope: High school softball player uses gratitude to deal with paralysis

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 21 2012 8:15 p.m. MST

But in those first weeks, Sam cried just one time, and that was in the hospital in Nephi immediately after the crash when her softball coach stood at her bedside.

Gee, who is also an assistant volleyball coach, heard about Sam's accident and immediately drove to the hospital.

"They told her Mama G is here, but they wouldn't let me in because I'm not family," Gee said. But then someone else who knew them both brokered a meeting in which Sam cried for the first time.

"She (Sam) said, 'Mama G, I just want to walk again; I want to play softball; I want to win a state championship and do all of the things we talked about as a team.' I said, 'We'll get there, Sam. You take care of yourself right now, and then we'll see,' " Gee said.

Gee can't imagine a softball season without her.

"She will be greatly missed," said Gee, tears shimmering in her eyes. "I'm hoping she can come back … but if I can at least keep her in the dugout, I'll have her calling my pitches."

It isn't just the coach who can't imagine a softball season without number 20 behind the plate. Erin Hansen, who plays shortstop for the team and was with Guillory in the crash, said it doesn't seem possible that Sam might not be able to play.

"She is the teammate," Hansen said. "If Sam isn't in a good mood, nobody is. Sam's pretty much our leader. We have to have Sam. Without her, we can't do it because she's the one who picks us up and helps us keep going."

Grief and gratitude

In the days after Sam's accident, the Guillory family was inundated with calls and visits expressing support and offering help. The family, known for leading the charge to help others, now struggled with accepting that same help.

At a 5k fundraiser, Jill couldn't walk more than a few steps without someone stopping her to offer a hug, words of encouragement and a few dollars. She let the tears flow freely as she filled them in on Sam's progress and thanked them for their thoughts and prayers.

The support is both sustaining and debilitating. It reaffirms her faith, while testing her ability to receive the kind of love she's been so willing to give.

"It's humiliating," she said, the sobs choking off her thoughts. "But it's not about me. It's about Sam. And it's so wonderful. We're so grateful."

And they need help.

They need financial help, despite having good health insurance. They need physical help with chores, remodeling and daily activities, and maybe most of all they need spiritual help, offered to them in the form of hugs, handshakes and countless prayers.

The naturally upbeat, outgoing woman admits she let herself go to the dark place once in the early weeks after Sam's accident.

"I did ask (God) why," she said, sinking into sadness briefly. "Because she can do it … I have a lot of faith. It's not even just the Mormon thing. It's God. And he loves us. And I can physically feel that. Sam can feel it. That's truly what saves me."

In the days after the accident, Sam told her friends she couldn't bear it if they organized a fundraiser for her family. Five weeks after that declaration, the friends did it anyway. With the help of Sam's sisters, more than 500 people showed up to run 3.2 miles in a T-shirt with Sam's number on the back.

"I've just been blown away by the support of our community," said her sister Mariah. "They've been awesome."

The race was just one moment, but it touched Jill in a unique way — running, and her running friends, have been her salvation in some of life's tough times. The sport brought the women together, but their support of each other made them friends.

The 5K fundraiser was one beautiful, huge blast of love that ended with a cookout and silent auction, all in Sam's honor and for her benefit.