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Camp for a higher cause

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
Top, Meg Bane, left and Whitney White with Caroline Laughorn, who is undergoing chemotherapy at Duke. Above, participants at the Comet volleyball instructional camp take part in a passing drill. / August 12, 2019
What began as a Comet volleyball instructional camp to encourage young girls to take up the sport took on a higher meaning when players and coaches rallied around a different goal — helping a recent Halifax County High School graduate fight leukemia.

Caroline Laughorn, who graduated in May, did not play volleyball during her time at HCHS. But a friend, Whitney White, did. White went on to play NCAA Division I volleyball at North Carolina Central University. Laughorn has had to put her college plans on hold after planning to attend James Madison University this semester.

Her cancer is back, and Laughorn and her family are having to deal with the pain and dread of a disease that has now come out of remission twice. But they are not alone in their ordeal.

On Saturday, the volleyball camp at the high school netted $1,125 to help the family pay medical bills as Caroline battles leukemia at Duke hospital in Durham, N.C.

HCHS head volleyball coach Meg Bane had planned the camp to bolster the school volleyball program, enlisting White’s help, but when they heard about the return of Laughorn’s leukemia they decided that any earnings from the camp should go to her.

“Whit [Whitney White] reached out to me with the idea to do something for the Laughorn family because she [Caroline] just graduated from this high school this past May,” Bane said. “Her skill set is volleyball, and I’m the coach here, so we just teamed up.

Although White recently graduated from N.C. Central, and Laughorn was preparing to go off to college just before she received her cruel diagnosis and started chemotherapy, the two young women did spend overlapping time at the high school. Caroline’s predicament struck a chord.

“The cool thing is that it is not just the volleyball girls here, but as soon as we publicized it we were getting contacts in the community, so it’s another great sign of Halifax coming together to support something bigger than the Halifax community, and that is a family in need,” Bane said.

Bane added that the effort was less about the money — which she acknowledged is a pittance compared to the cost of chemotherapy — and more about “letting Caroline know that we are here and we are here for her in this fight for cancer.”

Initially, though, the camp was not for charity. It arose from White’s moonlighting as a personal volleyball coach while she considers whether or not to play professional volleyball in Europe.

“One of the moms contacted me and asked if I could help her daughter get ready for the middle school tryouts,” said White, who played volleyball for N.C. Central until graduating this spring. “I was like, ‘Oh sure,’ and then I got to thinking that this would be a really great opportunity for everybody that wants to try out.”

White and Bane are former Comet volleyball teammates. Bane graduated from in 2013 and White in 2015, but Bane went to the University of Virginia while White went to NC Central. When she returned to Halifax, Bane became a coach at the high school, and after one year she became the head volleyball coach. She said that she has plans to grow the program.

“In this community, volleyball doesn’t usually take a front seat,” Bane added.

On Saturday, it did.

“We had a really good turnout this morning,” White said. “It’s really fun just getting the girls out there to say, ‘Oh, volleyball is really fun.’”

The team hosted two sessions on Saturday, one from 10 a.m. to noon that was designed for younger players, and an afternoon session that was targeted at high school and middle school players. Bane said that they had 45 participants in all, with about 25 of them coming in the afternoon.

“We raised $1,125…” Bane said, “We brought down the money, with a strength and conditioning T-shirt down to Duke to give to the family.”

White and Bane made the trip on behalf of volleyball camp participants to Duke hospital to visit Caroline. They stayed for nearly an hour, talking to her and her family.

“They appreciated the money and the girls coming out to support the cause. Very grateful,” Bane said.

The Laughorn family told Bane that they had been impressed at how community members had come together to use their particular skill sets to benefit Caroline. “Her mom is just saying it kind of cool that everyone in the community is doing what they know how to do,” Bane said. Area short-track drivers also came together to affix “Racing for Caroline” insignia on their cars and host a car display.

As for Caroline, Bane said that she was feeling better during their visit.

“She also said she wouldn’t know what they would do without this community helping out with everything,” Bane said.

That sentiment was also expressed by Caroline’s mother, Jennifer Hill Laughorn, on the Facebook page, “Caroline’s Journey”: “We are so blessed to live in a community that supports us in every way. Thank you so very much Meg Bane and Whitney White for holding a volleyball camp at the high school as a benefit for Caroline! You will never know how much it means to us. Thanks to all of the parents that got their children there to support this benefit as well! We are forever grateful!”

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