Each year, the Keller varsity volleyball team chooses a source of inspiration. This season, there was no question who that person would be.
Near the end of last school year, seventh grader Paige Davis, an A-team volleyball player at Keller Middle, was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare form of inoperable cancer that affects the brain stem.
Davis’ dreams of playing volleyball as a Lady Indian were dashed, so now the Keller girls are playing for her.
“I think it really just puts everything into perspective, knowing that it really is a privilege we get to play this game,” senior co-captain Alex Ghoulson said. “She doesn’t get to. I think that motivates us to work harder every day, like in practice when we don’t want to, but we think back to how much she wishes to be out here and won’t get that chance. I think that motivates us to work harder and push through everything.”
As part of its season-long dedication to Davis, the team held a Play for Paige night Sept. 22 against Abilene. The program raised almost $2,000 to help the Davis family with medical costs, but just as importantly, made the night all about Paige.
When the coach reminds us before every game that we’re playing for her and that she can’t be out here doing what she loves ... you’re having to give 100 percent and realize how grateful we should all be.
Keller co-captain Katya Bulawka, on how Paige Davis inspires her team
Each player on the roster wore a warm-up shirt adorned with No. 43, the same that Davis wore in middle school, which has since been retired. Each Indians player was introduced as Paige Davis.
In her condition, Paige couldn’t attend the event, but she was able to witness some of it via Facebook and each player recorded a personal message for her.
“She thought it was really cool and really nice that they did that for her,” Paige’s father, Brandon Davis, said. “It was emotional for us. We wanted to see our daughter go play for the varsity team at Keller. Throughout the entire process, whether at the high school or middle school, the amount of support we’ve seen from the city and the people has been just amazing.”
The Keller players were glad to do their part, and maybe took as much from it as Paige and her family.
“It meant the world. It really means a lot to be able to put on a jersey and put her number over top and realize what’s so much bigger that we need to play for,” co-captain Katya Bulawka said. “And to be able to raise money and do something that can physically go toward helping and not just emotional support. It was really nice to see that transferred and help the family as well.”
Keller head coach Jamie Siegel remembers Paige from a summer camp more than a year ago.
“She was very passionate and always had a smile on her face,” she said. “You could tell she loved the game.
“We wanted to make sure she felt like she was part of this program. She is part of this program,” she added.
Keller has plenty of self-motivation to do well this season after going four rounds deep in the playoffs a year ago. But as Bulawka points out, it’s always worthwhile to look beyond yourself.
“I think that’s why we do it,” she said. “We want to have success for something that’s a bigger cause.
“When the coach reminds us before every game that we’re playing for her and that she can’t be out here doing what she loves, every single person, whether you’re on the court or off the court, you’re having to give 100 percent and realize how grateful we should all be for the opportunity to even be on a team and be out there together. Not everybody is that fortunate, unfortunately.”