Lee women's soccer team honors 5-year-old in battle with cancer
The newest honorary member of Lee University’s women’s soccer team is also the youngest. Head Coach Chris Hennessey decided to add Olivia Weatherford, or Liv, to the team when he discovered the Weatherfords’ public Facebook group “LIV-In The Journey” created in April.
“I actually went to school with [Liv’s] dad and saw her story through Facebook,” Hennessey said. “I got connected and decided to reach out, since her story was so incredible and they were a part of the Lee community.”
The Facebook group has grown to be a community of more than 10,000 members. There were 2,000 posts to the message board in the last month, including updates from the family or encouraging Bible verses from strangers.
According to Liv’s Facebook page, she has been in “the battle of her life” since April 2, 2019, when doctors discovered a tumor in her stomach and traces in her marrow; she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
“Olivia is a tough kid with a very independent spirit,” Liv’s parents wrote. “She’s five years old and loves to be outside, playing with friends.”
Senior studio production major and one of three team captains, Carly Smoltz says the team is expectant for the day they meet their new addition. The team will play Christian Brothers University on October 20 in Memphis, where Liv is staying at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Smoltz says this trip is typically grueling for these student-athletes because of the eight hour bus ride and important games on top of missing classes. However, there is a new expectation for this trip because the team is taking a day to visit Liv.
“I think that we get to re-focus our attention on a girl that deserves the attention,” Smoltz said. “We are playing for a greater cause than just ourselves; she is our motivation for the season, and I’m excited to meet her during this weekend.”
Hennessey said that the team will be taking Lee women’s soccer gear to Liv when they visit, and Smoltz is working on the design for an honorary captain t-shirt for the five-year-old. The team is keeping up with the Facebook updates on Liv and will soon release a video Liv made after hearing of the team’s first win. To follow Liv’s journey, join the Facebook group, and, to keep up with the soccer team, check out their schedule.