Not long after the Camp Fire devastated the little town of Paradise, California, displacing thousands of residents, help came in many forms. This is one story.
While the Paradise Adventist Academy in Northern California volleyball team had made it to the state semi-finals, many of the players had lost everything in the fire.
“ ‘There were two or three (girls) that didn’t have anything, they lost everything in the fire,’ Paradise volleyball coach Jason Eyer said. ‘And four or five more didn’t have their jersey or their shoes. More than half of the team lost something they needed for that night,’ ” CNN reported (Dec. 4, 2018).
“When Eyer surveyed the players and their families about the November 10 semifinal game, the response was unanimous: They wanted to play.”
When the team arrived to play their opponents in Auburn, California, they got the surprise of their lives: new jerseys, equipment and more.
“Forest Lake Christian Athletic Director LaRon Gordon wasted no time,” CNN reported. “He set up a meeting with school administrators to see what they could do to help.
“First, they called the California Interscholastic Federation and persuaded them to waive the fans’ entrance fee for the game. Then they contacted everyone they knew and asked for donations.
“ ‘We got out and called our friends, community, got on social media,’ Gordon said. ‘And we set up three little bins outside the school (for donations).’
“By the next day, the bins were overflowing.
“ ‘The whole front of the school was jam-packed full of donations,’ he said. ‘You couldn’t even walk into the school from the front. You can’t imagine it.’
“The night before the game, Gordon had another idea. He called a close friend and located a company that agreed to work overnight to make jerseys for the Paradise team.”
When the Paradise team arrived, they couldn’t believe what they saw.
“ ‘We saw the jerseys with socks and kneepads and shorts and there were bags with jerseys and shoes,’ said Carter, the Paradise player. ‘We don’t even know how they pulled that together so quickly. It was just a feeling of overwhelming love.’ ”
While Paradise lost the game, the players received another surprise before they left Auburn.
“ ‘At the end of the match they handed every girl on the team an envelope of $300 worth of gift cards for places for them to buy clothes,’ Eyer said. ‘And they presented me with a box of gift cards and cash with over $10,000 for the families at the school.’ ”
Paradise Coach Eyer said that despite the loss on the court, the demonstration of compassion and charity had a strong impact on him and his community.
“To have our community show up in such a huge way, I’m still blown away by it,” Forest Lake Christian head coach Travis Smith said, according to The Union. “I’ve never seen that many people in our gym, and there were people there who had never watched a volleyball game in their life, but they came to support what we were doing.”
Coach LaRon Gordon had similar feelings about how his own community worked to make it all possible.
“ ‘One of the biggest things it taught me is that we’re there for each other in times of need,’ he said. ‘It could have been me; it could have been our school. The community that came out gave me a sense of hope for humanity.’ ”