Baylee keeps going
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 13:10
Six-year-old girls love the color pink. They like giggling, playing, and being treated like princesses. In this sense, Baylee Adkins is much like any other six-year-old girl; however, this past June, Adkins was diagnosed with brain cancer. Despite surgery, chemotherapy and general exhaustion, Adkins’ passion for the UNCW women’s soccer team never wavers.
Upon Adkins’ diagnosis, her mother, Tracie Thocher, discovered The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, which partners children who have pediatric brain tumors with local high school and college sports teams.
Years prior, Melissa Barnes, UNCW women’s soccer assistant coach, contacted Friends of Jaclyn to make the team a possible adopter. FOJ contacted Barnes over the summer to inform her of Adkins’ interest in the team.
Towards the end of September, a few players met Adkins for the first time and spent the afternoon playing in the Almkuist-Nixon training room. A few weeks later, the entire UNCW women’s soccer team adopted Adkins as an honorary teammate. With 35 new big sisters, Adkins’ mother noticed a change in her daughter.
“[Going to games] gives her something to look forward to, and she knows that she has the support of the team,” said Thocher. “She’s always been resilient. Now she’s more positive.”
During the past few months, Barnes also noted significant changes in Adkins.
“Baylee is a pretty shy kid to begin with,” said Barnes. “Now that she knows all of our girls, she’s super excited. She’s not shy or nervous anymore. It absolutely brought her out of her shell.”
Thocher says when her daughter is ill or lethargic after chemotherapy, she immediately perks up at the thought of the next home game and getting to see her team. Adkins constantly asks her mother when the next game will be. Each week, she is eager to support her Lady Seahawks.
Although Adkins has blossomed while spending time with her big sisters, goalkeeper Caitlin Hunter claims the team also benefits from the relationship.
“Baylee helps us realize how important life is and how soccer can affect other people around us,” said Hunter. “She helps us stay focused in games and gives us something to play for.”
Hunter said her teammates are often more excited than Adkins on days when she is able to visit UNCW.
Center midfielder Ali Nagle said her team is lucky to have Adkins in their lives.
“She brings joy to the team,” said Nagle. “Seeing her on the sidelines gives us the perspective that there’s more to life than soccer. We always want to do our best because she’s looking up to us.”
A few months after the women’s soccer team adopted Adkins, UNCW’s transfer honor society, Tau Sigma, decided to further support the six-year-old. Tau Sigma president Terrell Bryant followed Adkins’ story in the news, and was touched by her relationship with the women’s soccer team. After contacting Barnes, Bryant and Tau Sigma sponsored the “Go, Baylee, Go” raffle, which took place last week. All proceeds will go to Adkins and her family.
“We do a lot of philanthropic work in Wilmington, but this is a more personal thing,” said Bryant. “It definitely touched everybody [in Tau Sigma]. There’s one student in particular who had brain surgery, and it struck her pretty hard.”
Along with the raffle, the women’s soccer team is selling bracelets at $5 each, and all proceeds go to Adkins and her family.
Thocher said she and the rest of Adkins' family are extremely grateful for the support they continue to receive from the women’s soccer team, as well as Tau Sigma.
“It’s been a real blessing,” she said. “It’s not just a blessing for Baylee; it’s a blessing for all of us.”