More important than the game: Spanish Fork community raises money for rival softball player
Amy Donaldson, Deseret News
SPANISH FORK — It isn’t unusual for opposing teams to honor each other’s players on senior night.
But it might be a first for the home team to present one of those seniors from the rival team with more than $1,800.
The Spanish Fork softball team invited Juab senior Sam Guillory to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the season’s final region contest between the two teams Friday afternoon. After the game, the Dons honored their four seniors, and then they offered Guillory, who’d played summer softball with them last year, a quilt made from old softball T-shirts and jerseys and the money they’d raised throughout the school year.
The celebration was months in the making, and really began in a Utah County hospital room last fall.
That’s when Spanish Fork senior Kenzie Packard and her teammates visited Guillory just days after she was paralyzed in a car accident. Packard said the girls immediately began discussing ways they could help their friend who’d quickly earned a special place in their hearts with her gritty, determined play.
“We told our coach we were going to sell suckers,” said Packard, an outfielder for the top-ranked Dons, who locked up the region title with an 8-0 win over Juab. “He told us we might sell 12 suckers. Honestly, I knew we’d sell some, but I didn’t know how many we’d sell. Once people found out why we were doing it, we sold them everywhere. Tons of people donated.” The girls surprised themselves with how much money they raised selling lollipops they purchased and sold for $1 each.
Even their coach, who admired their thoughtfulness, was skeptical that selling suckers would raise much more than a few dollars.
“The girls pretty much did all of it,” said Spanish Fork head coach Don Andrews. “We put on a clinic, and I didn’t think they’d make any money selling suckers so I told them they could use their clinic money, about $500. ... This is a pretty good group of girls, pretty special.” He said it was an effort motivated by friendship.
“This had everything to do with them trying to help a teammate,” Andrews said. “And as far as I’m concerned, that’s mad money. Don’t do anything but just go and blow it.” As it turned out, a pre-printed check for $1,000 to Guillory grew Friday afternoon thanks to the efforts of a raffle and some generous umpires. Plate umpire Duffy Latham and his partner, John Cornwell, donated their pay for Friday’s game after learning of the fundraising effort. Softball fans, parents and community members stopped by to bid on items and just donate, bringing the grand total to more than $1,800.
Jill and Bob Guillory, Sam's parents, were moved to tears — as was Sam — at the generosity of the girls and the community that supports them. Jill Guillory said Spanish Fork raised nearly $2,000 for the family at a football game immediately after the accident.
“Aren’t people good?” she said, stopping to regain control of her emotions. “How do you thank people for this? We only knew six or seven of these girls. It’s just unreal. I can’t even explain how good people are.”
Packard posed for pictures with Guillory after the game as her parents examined the quilt that commemorates some special softball moments. She said Sam’s commitment to live her new life to the fullest continues to inspire her friends.
“She’s a huge part of our team,” said Packard. “She’s just so strong. She really inspires us. And knowing Sam, she’ll stay strong, keep pushing. What she’s gone through is really hard, but I know she won’t give up.”
Andrews works at the hospital where Guillory was first taken the night of the accident. He said he was thrilled to see her throw out the first pitch, even if Sam was a little disappointed with the result.
“It’s just really good to see her be able to use her hands,” he said smiling. Andrews, who was presented with a ring commemorating his victories, knows a lot about success.
“The game is important,” he said, pausing for a moment. “But someone like Sam is a little more important.”
Spanish Fork honors rival player
The Spanish Fork softball team presents Juab senior Sam Guillory with a check and a quilt. Guillory played summer softball with some of the girls last summer, and they were moved to help her after she was paralyzed in a car accident.