By: Wendy Reid, Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) Women's Sports Information Director
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – At the Snowbarger Athletic Complex on October 1, 2013, the No. 19 Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) women’s soccer team did something special. Yes, the scoreboard at the end of the game showed that the Tigers handily defeated Purdue University-Calumet 7-1 in Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) action.
But the real story was the yellow balloons rising into the sky as the Tigers and their 400 fans recognized Zayla Mitsdarffer — a young girl from the Kankakee, Ill., area — who is battling cancer for the third time in her young life.
“Pray for Zay,” as the fundraiser was named, was a success — not because of the money received, but because this young lady saw that people care. People who don’t even know her personally want to help her with her battle.
The plan for the evening’s match was to have Zayla enter the field with the Tigers, to be announced as if she were one of the team’s starters. That plan, however, didn’t work out because Zayla was unable to make it there by that time.
“When you are battling cancer, you have good days and bad days,” said Olivet junior Emily Rosenboom (Kankakee, Ill.) as she led the team in prayer at halftime. “Unfortunately, today is one of those bad days for Zayla.”
At the end of Rosenboom’s prayer, she asked the crowd to release the balloons to symbolize the prayer going to heaven.
With about 20 minutes left in the match, Zayla and her family arrived. She was greeted with chants of “We love you, Zayla,” and welcomed with open arms by the crowd. She was also able to celebrate the victory with the Tigers on the field after the game.
“Our women’s soccer team and Bill Bahr, head coach, continue to show us how to care for others with the love of Jesus,” said Gary Newsome, athletic director. “We join Zayla and her family in thanking them for all they do to make our world a better place.”