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NET benefit

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Heather Anne Tucker was on hand for Tuesday’s benefit volleyball game at Bluestone despite her battles with brain cancer. Volleyball teams at Bluestone and Cumberland joined together to raise money to help with the Tucker family’s medical expenses. (Mike Moseley photos) / October 02, 2013
The stakes were high when the Bluestone and Cumberland high school volleyball teams faced off last Tuesday at Bluestone High School. Only this time, the competition in the standings may have been the least of the teams’ concerns.

Instead, the two schools were united in common cause — to raise money to help defray the medical expenses of Bluestone freshman Heather Anne Tucker, a 14-year-old who is fighting Glioblastoma Multiforme, a brain cancer.

It was a true community effort, involving not only the two James River District rivals, but also their respective communities at large.

Baron volleyball head coach Wesley Swain spearheaded the effort and said she was very pleased and thankful for how the fundraiser went.

For Cumberland’s part, their head coach, Heather Sutton, said her team was more than willing to support the cause.

“We also had a student-athlete who had cancer,” Sutton said. “Most of the girls on the team either played with the girl or were in class with her — so they know how this feels and they wanted to help.”

Sutton said Swain contacted her about three weeks prior to the scheduled match and told her what she wanted to do with the game as far as making it a fund raiser. “I thought it was a great idea,” said Sutton.

Not only did the Cumberland volleyball team offer its support, so did the Cumberland school community as a whole. The school took up donations for Heather Anne.

“This is a good example of what can be accomplished when we come together in our district,” Sutton said. “We should be able to do things like this to help each other.”

Tricia Tucker, Heather’s mom, said the family was overcome with emotion on Tuesday as the volleyball match approached. She said she was very appreciative of what the girls from Bluestone and Cumberland and people in the community have done.

“The game did a lot to help us on this journey we are on,” Tucker said. “It just helps Heather to know she is still an active part of Bluestone and that the kids care about her and miss her.”

Tucker said starting high school was one of the things the family couldn’t wait to celebrate with Heather — “It’s a special time,” she said. But her daughter’s freshman year has been anything but a normal school year as she battles brain cancer.

“Not being able to attend school and then only attending for a couple hours a day when she could go, it’s been tough.”

Tucker said the game on Tuesday was so special because it made Heather feel connected to her fellow students again.

“It was all the time and thought they put into it,” Tucker said. “The girls on the volleyball team hand-made the shirts. And we were so surprised when the entire football team lined up and walked through during the introduction of players and gave her hugs — they didn’t have to do that, but it shows how much they care about Heather.”

As a Bluestone Middle student, Heather played soccer and basketball. She was looking forward to entering high school as a ninth grader when she first developed her illness in late May.

Heather was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent surgery to remove the mass, only to have a second — and inoperable — tumor develop. She is receiving treatment at VCU Children’s Hospital and Massey Cancer Clinic in Richmond.

Tucker said Heather has experienced swelling on the brain in recent days and continues chemotherapy treatments. This week the dosage was doubled — “So it’s been a tough week on her.”

But Tucker said Heather has always been a strong person and just continues to battle. He favorite saying is, “It is what it is,” and that, for her, is the truth.

Tucker said she wanted to thank everyone in the Mecklenburg and Cumberland communities for all of their support.

“So many people and businesses stepped up to help and we just want to thank them,” Tucker said.

Tucker also said she wanted to especially thank Wesley Swain.

“Coach Swain wanted to help Heather and she did that,” she added.

Another of Swain’s goals is to raise awareness that September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“We do so much in October promoting breast cancer awareness and that’s good — it is a very worthy cause. I just hope people will remember our children and promote National Childhood Awareness Month as much.”

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