High School Sports, Sports

Jennies volleyball gets a lesson on cancer they won’t forget

While attending a sporting event, it is typical that spectators become so invested in the action that they forget about everything outside of the game. That’s part of the beauty of sports; the audience is mesmerized and awestruck. At the conclusion of the Jennies second set against Missouri Western on Saturday, just the opposite happened. Those in attendance rose to their feet and, for a moment, forgot all about Jennie’s volleyball.

The Multipurpose Building grew silent as Gabi Shull, a local high school junior, made her way to the center of the court with a microphone.

Gabi spoke to Jennies fans on behalf of The Truth 365, an organization that raises awareness and funds for childhood cancer. She explained the financial and emotional struggles that accompany childhood cancer, a reality she knows all too well.

When Gabi was just nine years old, she was diagnosed with cancer in her right knee.

The initial rounds of cancer treatment consisted of intensive chemotherapy, often forcing Gabi to spend prolonged visits at the hospital. After a few sessions, however, the doctors proposed an alternative solution: amputation.

Gabi underwent an amputation process known as Rotationplasty, during which the knee and bottom of the leg are removed. The ankle and foot are then rotated 180 degrees and are reattached at the bottom of the thigh. The surgery was successful, but an extensive recovery process followed.

It took an entire year of physical therapy before Gabi was able to walk again. A prosthesis, an artificial leg, specially designed for Rotationplasty patients allowed Gabi to walk just as she did prior to the surgery. Although the ability to walk was a milestone in Gabi’s recovery, it was simply a starting point for her.

Since mastering the use of the prosthesis, Gabi has participated in ice skating, roller blading, rock climbing and, most importantly, dancing. Gabi regularly practiced dance prior to her cancer diagnosis and was determined to return her passion following her acquisition of her prosthesis. She even acquired a customized prosthesis for en pointe dancing, a type of dance that requires the dancer to be on their toes.

Gabi’s full recovery and her return to dancing went seamlessly and the story caught the attention of media across the country. This included Mike Gillette, the producer of the documentary of The Truth 365.

Gillette worked with Gabi to promote awareness for childhood cancer on behalf The Truth 365. Gabi has remained with The Truth 365 since her first conversation with Gillette and now serves as a spokesperson for the organization, testifying on their behalf.

“It’s important to keep raising funds and awareness for this,” Gabi said. “The lack of funding is so horrible and eye-opening that it makes you want to give back to others.”

Gabi’s mission of giving back has been ongoing since teaming with The Truth 365. Two children diagnosed with cancer accompanied her at the Jennies game Saturday and because she understood their situation, she was able to serve as a mentor-like figure to each of them.

“Those kids are going to be just like her when they have a mentor like her,” Jennies head coach Flip Piontek said. “They can see what an individual can do given these circumstances.”

Gabi and her two protégés made their way off the court after the speech to the sound of a standing ovation, Piontek and the Jennies prepared for a third set against the Missouri Western Griffons, and the crowd at the Multipurpose building sat down and readied themselves for more exciting action. Those in attendance, however, might not have forgotten everything outside of the game as is typical when watching the Jennies. There is a good chance that there was one thought they didn’t forget about this time.

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