We wanted to start our blog out with an update on Heaven Harris, a player that we met a few years ago when we first started Stay in Softball.
Heaven grew up playing softball in the Alabama Dixie Softball program. Heaven was a very strong right-handed pitcher, first baseman and hitter for the Ponytails X-Play team. Her last game of the 2015 Dixie Softball season was in the Alabama State Tournament and Heaven was the starting pitcher for her team. The game was a pitcher's duel that went into extra innings tied 0-0. While her team did not walk away with the victory, Heaven pitched one of her best games ever.
A few months later, in November of 2015, Heaven lost her right arm in an ATV accident. While some people might have let the accident put an end to their sports career, Heaven did not. Just three months after losing her arm, Heaven returned to the softball field and played first base. Her story from tragedy to triumph is a great one. It is a story of “blood, sweat and tears; of labor and anguish.” It is also a story of kindness, charity and sisterhood.
After her accident, Heaven had to have three surgeries and spent 12 days in the hospital. While she was in the hospital she worried if she would have to give up softball. However, news quickly spread about the accident to LeAnn Sanders Shelton. Like Heaven, LeAnn grew up playing softball in the AL Dixie League. However, from the very start, LeAnn played softball with only one arm; having lost her left arm in a lawn mower accident when she was 4. As soon as LeAnn heard about the accident, she started trying to get in contact with Heaven’s parents. She wanted to do whatever she could to help Heaven through her recovery and also show her that it was possible to play again if she wanted.
Shortly after Heaven came home from the hospital, LeAnn visited her to offer emotional support. The one visit quickly turned into two, three and four visits. Not only did LeAnn provide emotional support and help teach Heaven little tricks for making daily activities easier, but she also helped her get back to playing softball. LeAnn spent many hours teaching Heaven how to play with one arm. Heaven had to re-learn how to do everything - not only with one arm but also the opposite throwing arm. Although it was a hard road, Heaven never gave up and returned to the softball field only months after the accident. She has been playing and improving ever since.
In addition to LeAnn’s help, countless other people helped Heaven along the way. The Dixie softball league started a card writing campaign and Heaven received cards from across the country. Her friends and family set up a fundraising campaign, Pitch it for Heaven, (which is how we learned of Heaven and helped support her) which raised money to help with her medical bills and expenses through the sale of t-shirts and wristbands with her favorite quote “I don’t need easy, I just need possible”. Bownet provided her with a new tee and gear bag and also invited her to NPF week. The University of Alabama also invited her to throw out the first pitch in one of their games against Kentucky. Like so many times before, the softball community stepped up to help one of its own.
Because of her inspiring story and her charitable work, LeAnn was recently recognized as of Tuscaloosa News’ “Six Intriguing People”. The part of the article that stuck with us the most is when LeAnn stated that she always wondered what the purpose of her accident was. She said that she got her answer after she met Heaven. That was a great lesson about trying to find “the good” in your trials and adversities. The article can be read here:
You can also watch LeAnn and Heaven on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/175969275
We recently caught up with LeAnn and Heaven and asked them a few questions about how they are doing. We will post the interview answers from LeAnn in our next blog entry.
If you don't know a lot about Stay in Softball, we are a group of softball players who love softball and are working hard to make sure that every girl who wants to play softball can. We do this by providing girls and teams with free equipment, free clinics, uniform items and other support. Stay in Softball is run by a Player Advisory Board and a Junior Player Advisory Board (to see the players on these boards, go to "About Us" and the Player Advisory Board page will drop down). An adult Board of Directors assists, mentors and oversees the Player Advisory Boards.
Everyone on the Player Advisory Board has played softball for many years- most of us since we were 5 or 6. Over the years, we have all played rec league, high school and travel softball and the majority of us plan to play in college. Because we have all played softball for so many years, between us, we have been through almost everything a softball player can go through: both good and bad. We have also spoken to hundreds of players through our free clinics, social media pages, etc. and have realized that there is always one of us who can relate to the question or issue presented and give our perspective. Even if we don't have all of the answers - who does?? - players usually like hearing about the experiences (experiences-- not bragging) of other players. So, that is the purpose of this blog: to share our experiences and stories. We also hope that other players use it as a place to share their experiences and stories. Finally, we will also use it to keep everyone up to date on what we are doing to help keep girls in the game and share ways that all players can help.
We would love to add articles from other players as well- so if you want to send us something, please use the contact form on the website or e mail it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we use your article on this main page, we will send you a Stay in Softball t shirt. We hope you enjoy the blog.