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Belchertown girls volleyball team lead in healing and volunteering

September 30, 2014

Ware-  Student athletes from Belchertown High School girls’ volleyball team recently took a break from their busy class schedule and fall volleyball season to volunteer their time maintaining the Healing Garden located at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital.

Our Saturday morning time spent in the garden is just the beginning of many as the team and their coach Scott Poulin, and co-coach, parent, and friend, Paul McGrath, have made a commitment to maintain the beautiful plants and grounds of the Healing Garden throughout the year.

“Coach Poulin suggested we help out in the garden last year after we visited Baystate Mary Lane Hospital’s Oncology Unit to make a donation following our annual Spike it for Life Volleyball game,” said McGrath. “The Belchertown team has been hosting the Spike it for Life tournament since 2010.” Each year the proceeds from the tournament are donated to the Baystate Regional Cancer Program at the hospital which offers cancer care locally.

The Healing Garden, which the team has adopted as their community volunteer project, is located in the courtyard of the hospital. It is a calming space designed as a respite for patients, caregivers, and their families. The oncology suite overlooks the garden which was funded by the Walk of Champions. The Baystate Regional Cancer Program at the hospital provides convenient access to comprehensive cancer care, clinical trials and a multidisciplinary team approach to cancer care in Ware.

“I get so much help from the volleyball team members and have met some amazing parents along the way,” said McGrath who organizes the annual Spike it for Life events. McGrath’s daughter, Kayla, was a member of the varsity volleyball team throughout her years at Belchertown High School, and now a second year varsity member of the volleyball team at Arcadia University, located in Pennsylvania.

It was at an annual preseason meeting for parents and team members that McGrath and his daughter attended, that the idea about doing something to support Breast Cancer Awareness month was discussed. At the suggestion of the coach, McGrath researched Spike it for Life and it is now an annual event for Belchertown with both Amherst and Ware. Spike It For Life is the brand of a growing community of volleyball coaches, players and events across Western Massachusetts with the specific purpose of combining sport and philanthropy to raise money for Cancer research and supporting services. “The teams wear pink shirts, shoe laces, hair ties to show their support. There are raffle baskets assembled by parents from donations from businesses in the communities. The gym is filled with pink and plenty of energy"!

“My wife Anne worked for 10 years at Mary Lane as a Physical Therapy Assistant, and received chemotherapy treatment there also, but sadly never got to see our daughter play volleyball,” said McGrath. “She passed away in June of 2009 after a courageous 5 year battle with Breast Cancer. The Spike it for Life tournament is held in October during Breast Cancer Awareness in memory of her.”

“I’m proud of these girls,” said Coach Poulin. The Girls Volleyball team has been the leader at the high school in fundraising spirit, and they want to lead community involvement by example too.”

“We are grateful to the Belchertown Girls Volleyball team for the work they are doing in our healing garden,” said Dr. M. Shafeeq Ahmed, Chief Operating Officer of the Baystate Health Eastern Region and Chief Medical Officer of Baystate Mary Lane Hospital. “There is evidence that the more support patients and their families receive the better they are able to heal. It is a privilege to have our most valuable assets, the youth from our community, partnering with us on the Healing Garden which touches our patients, visitors and staff personally.”

“The girls cannot wait to come back to the Healing Garden,” said McGrath. “I was impressed with how serious they took it. No music, no cell phones, and they kept asking "Mr. McGrath, what else can we do”, after they pulled weeds, crawled under bushes to prune, and cut back the summer foliage. The team will return to the hospital’s Healing Garden the first week in October to plant lilies and fall flower bulbs that will that will bring color year round. to the garden”

Belchertown High School will host the fifth annual Spike it for Life game on October 24 at 5:00 pm. Community members are invited to come out to support the Belchertown and Ware girls Volleyball Teams as they play for a great cause. For more information contact Paul McGrath at mcbtown13@gmail.com.