As the opening ceremony began, the young gymnasts strode onto the floor, their faces a study in determination and hope. Each girl wore her team colors -- leotards laced with bright pink, purple, silver or shades of blue -- six teams in all.
But what wasn’t obvious was another team that was present.
“If you haven’t purchased your 'Team Jacoby' bracelet,” a gymnastics coach announced from the microphone, “they are available near the concessions table.”
As I sat in the bleachers watching granddaughter Hailey on the balance beam, I thought back to the day in November when I got the call about Jacoby Miles’ fall.
Never miss a local story.
“Mom, will you pray?” my daughter Traci’s voice tight as she relayed the tragic event. “A girl at another gym fell during practice. . .” the words trailing at the thought of an accident on the parallel bars.
Jacoby, a Level 9 gymnast, had sustained an injury to her neck which left her paralyzed from mid-chest down. According to the Miles’ family blog, an early CAT scan showed her C4 vertebrae had dislocated sitting slightly in front of her C5.
Since that tragic day, the outpouring of love and support from “Team Jacoby” has been amazing.
A huge fundraiser attended by a number of well-known sports figures, including Richland’s Olympics Gold Medalist Hope Solo, has raised money to help with medical expenses. In addition, volunteers have completed a makeover for the Miles’ Puyallup, Wash. home to make life easier for wheelchair-bound Jacoby. Meals, care packages, cards, visits—and so much more—have helped the 15 year-old teen with her journey.
This past weekend, her remarkable journey became more personal as I wore the “Team Jacoby” bracelet and watched my granddaughter Hailey’s gymnastics competition for the first time; the height of the parallel bars a vivid reminder of how life can change in a heartbeat.
Yet in the face of tragedy, there is determination and hope.
A recent blog post from Jacoby’s parents, Jason and Gretchen, illustrates their unwavering faith: “God continues to stretch and strengthen us through this trial . . . and (we) continue to trust in His purpose in all of this . . .”
Without a doubt, God is a member of Jacoby’s team - and He will walk with her on this journey.