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.