Hoops team fights for Elsa
Sports can bring seemingly random groups of people together within a community. For one young cancer patient, a new bond was formed recently with the Waterloo Junior High School sixth grade girls basketball team.
Elsa Wiemerslage started kindergarten at Zahnow Elementary in Waterloo this past August. By the end of October, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and began her fight against cancer.
“We’ve only lived in the community for about four years now and it’s just unbelievable that everyone has rallied around our daughter and has really shown her a lot of love,” said Adrienne Wiemerslage, Elsa’s mother. “It’s quite amazing. It blows my mind.”
Adrienne and her husband, Kevin, just welcomed their third child to the family last month.
Waterloo has rallied to Elsa’s aid, raising more than $18,000 on her GoFundMe account (www.gofundme.com/vj7zw6tt) thus far. The House of Neighborly Service has also set up a fund, and other fundraisers have been held.
The WJHS sixth grade girls basketball team decided to help out the best way it could, and that was by winning. The girls decided to support Elsa by fighting through the season, just like she is fighting through her cancer. Their goal was to go undefeated, and they did with a perfect 15-0 mark.
“We were probably like 4-0 when we found out about Elsa,” head coach Tommy Smith said. “Me and the girls decided to dedicate the season to her and just fight hard through every game. We wore orange and white to start the season. After I talked to the girls, we decided to wear all orange in support of her. They fought every game.”
After completing their goal, Smith held a party for the team at Rogers Elementary in Waterloo last Friday, where Smith teaches. Adrienne Wiemerslage also attended the gathering.
In addition to going undefeated and wearing orange in support of Elsa, the team cheered for Elsa every game and in every situation that they could.
“They thought of the cheer,” Smith said. “They did it before every game, anytime we had a huddle, we broke with that. I know that when we first started doing it at the first couple of games, I could see people in the crowd wondering, ‘What are they cheering for?’”
People in the stands quickly understood what and who they were cheering for as Elsa’s story had gotten around the community. The team would shout “Fight, Elsa!” during the season. On Friday, they made a new cheer just for Adrienne.
“Elsa on three! One! Two! Three! Elsa!” the entire team shouted. The players then circled Adrienne and gave her a group hug. They also left her cards for Elsa.
The cards were an extra show of support for Elsa. Each one tells Elsa to keep fighting or just lets Elsa know they care about her.
“I wrote out ‘ELSA’ and then made a really cool word for every one of her letters,” said Taylor Ziebold, a member of the team. “For the ‘E,’ I put ‘extraordinary.’ For the ‘L,’ I put ‘loving.’ For the ‘S,’ I put ‘so awesome.’ And for the ‘A,’ I put ‘amazing.’”
The team fought hard to win this season. Smith told them that it was the first time the sixth grade girls team had gone undefeated in about eight seasons.
Although the ‘Dogs wanted to win, they didn’t forget they wanted to do it for Elsa.
“Every time I went on the court, I thought of her because we wanted to win,” team member Joely Goulding said.
“I thought that every time we kept winning the games, we kept getting stronger and fighting because we wanted to fight for Elsa,” teammate Sarah Crump added.
Adrienne Wiemerslage took the cards from the girls and brought them to Elsa.
“These are just sixth grade girls. I’m blown away that they took the time to take care of a 5-year-old girl that most of them haven’t even met,” Adrienne said. “That’s the crazy part. It just shows you how much love they have for people in their community.
“Both my husband and I are blown away. Everybody I know, they’re just blown away. Especially people who don’t live in this community. Like I said, we’ve only been here for four years and we’ve always enjoyed living here. This is an awesome place, but I couldn’t fathom not living here and just how different it would be if we were to live somewhere else. It’s just amazing that these sixth grade girls can even see that.”
Elsa’s fight continues. The basketball season has come to an end, but the bond forged between two strong forces will continue to grow.
Sixth-grade basketball player Kenedi Price probably summed it up best.
“It was obviously awesome to be undefeated for Elsa, because we fought through those teams and she’s fighting for a cure.”