MARTINS FERRY - When things get tough for Shawna Warner, she turns to the people that love her to make things better.
And there are plenty of those.
''She's very loved,'' said Amanda Warner, Shawna's mom.
SHAWNA WARNER, seated, looks over some of the gifts she received Wednesday night during “Team Up for a Cure” at the Tolbert Gymnasium. Members of the Martins Ferry volleyball team presented the gifts to Warner.
A great illustration of that affection was showcased Wednesday night at Martins Ferry High School where the Purple Riders' volleyball team, along with squads from Bellaire and Buckeye Trail, joined forces for the annual "Team Up for a Cure" event.
For several years, Martins Ferry and Bellaire's volleyball teams have joined forces to raise funds to aid a cancer patient in their community. And with 2013 being Martins Ferry's turn to select a recipient, members of the Purple Riders chose Shawna, a 14-year-old Martins Ferry eighth-grader with leukemia.
''We talked to the kids and they gave us her name,'' explained Tammy DeLeonardis, treasurer of the Martins Ferry Volleyball Parents Organization, which helped organize Wednesday's activities.
Along with the triangualar match between the Purple Riders, Big Reds and Warriors, there were a number of other activities taking place, with proceeds benefiting Warner's fight. In addition to defraying her medical costs, funds are also being used to aid her family after a fire destroyed their home and belongings in April.
When Martins Ferry visits Bellaire in early October, proceeds from that match will also benefit Warner.
''We also had businesses in town that gave us donations,'' DeLeonardis said.
''We're just hoping to ease her expense burden just a little bit.''
What was normally a sea of purple and white inside the school's cafetorium was turned into a maze of orange and gold.
''Orange represents leukemia and gold represents childhood awareness,'' DeLeonardis said.
The teams donned orange and gold shirts instead of their usual regalia and many in attendance wore orange and gold ribbons made by members of the Martins Ferry seventh-grade squad.
There was a 50-50 drawing, raffles and a jar at the concession stand where donations could be made.
Then, prior to the start of the three matches, members of the Purple Riders presented a number of gifts to Shawna. That, according to Purple Riders head coach Chuck Probst, was one of the most heart-warming moments of the evening.
''The girls couldn't wait for the ceremonies to get started and to show her how much they appreciate her,'' he said.
''It was an emotional night for the girls. (Shawna) takes things so well and our girls know she always has a smile on her face regardless of what she's going through.''
In fact, doctors didn't want her at Wednesday's festivities. They wanted her in Columbus at Nationwide Children's Hospital receiving treatment. But Shawna's grandparents, Jim and Dorothy Husvar, pleaded with them to let Shawna wait until Thursday.
''She's been talking about this all week,'' Dorothy said.
Prior to heading to the school, Shawna stopped in at Cloud 9 Hair Salon for a little primping in preparation for the big moment.
Then, when it came, it was beyond expectations.
''It's so nice to have so many people here that care about you,'' an emotional Shawna said.
Her family was equally impressed with the love and support.
''We didn't think it would be this nice,'' Jim Husvar said. ''The community has really done a lot for us.''
That spirit of coming together and doing for others has done something more for his players than winning could ever do, Probst stressed.
''This was special for them to come out to help her in any way they could,'' he said. ''Sometimes, people say kids aren't compassionate But, that's not true. And, (Wednesday), they showed that.''
Thorp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org