Volley for Kaylee in Valmeyer

Pictured is the Valmeyer Junior High School volleyball team along with others present at “Volley for Kaylee” on Monday night, including Chris and Julia Muertz. The inset photo is of Kaylee.

A substantial crowd covered the bleachers in the Valmeyer High School gym Monday evening, all coming out in support of one young girl who’s been battling a blood disease for several years.

“Volley for Kaylee” was a well-received fundraiser for the benefit of Kaylee Muertz and her family. The event featured a raffle and match between the Valmeyer and Steeleville junior high school volleyball squads.

The idea for this event came from VJHS volleyball coach Tiffani Brewer and P.E. teacher and assistant coach Blair Brady.

Brewer said she lost her grandmother back in December, and the two were looking to organize a volleyball tournament in her honor given how supportive she was of Valmeyer volleyball during Brewer’s time playing the sport in school.

Just over a month ago, with little time to put together a larger event, they ultimately decided to do a smaller volleyball match for the benefit of Kaylee who, at the time, had recently undergone a bone marrow transplant.

“At that point when we thought of it she was only a day, maybe two days post bone marrow transplant,” Brewer said. “And from there we got approval from the school and they were good with it, so we just picked a day and then did it that way.”

According to Kaylee’s mother Christy, Kaylee has been battling aplastic anemia since December 2019. For the last three years, her treatment has focused on medicine to help her in an immunocompromised state.

Aplastic anemia is a condition that occurs when a body stops producing enough new blood cells. The condition leaves one fatigued and more prone to infections and uncontrolled bleeding.

That treatment proved ineffective, and she was eventually placed on a bone marrow transplant list. A donor was recently found thanks to the marrow donor program “Be The Match,” as no one in Kaylee’s close family were a good enough match to donate.

The transplant took place Jan. 13 and, according to Christy, Kaylee is doing OK at the moment.

“Her numbers are looking good,” Christy said. “Her numbers are looking really well for the time that she’s at. She’s day 45-plus, and her numbers are looking really good. Her platelets are coming in and her blood. She is not needing a transfusion in one week, which is awesome. So, no transfusions are needed right now. That doesn’t mean it won’t change, but she’s where she needs to be at this point.”

Kaylee’s father Chris attended the volleyball match along with Kaylee’s sister Julia. He commented on Kaylee’s spirit and determination over the last few years.

“She is so tough,” Chris said. “It’s just remarkable the way she’s fighting. Her numbers, they’re starting to come up. Obviously, we’d like them to come up a little bit faster. We’re kind of impatient that way, but all the doctors are encouraged by the early signs.”

Christy also offered a perspective on Kaylee beyond her illness. She noted her daughter’s involvement in a number of musicals both with the school and the Actor’s Attic along with an interest in dance and traditional art.

Christy also noted Kaylee was responsible for the shirts – on which were printed “Attack Aplastic Anemia” – sported by the VJHS volleyball team and many others who purchased them for the event.

“She’s just very artsy, and music is her thing,” Christy said. “She’s not into sports. She’s not into things like that, but she loves to draw and create things. She drew the shirts for the volleyball team. All the shirts that everybody wore last night, that was her design.”

Both Chris and Christy offered their thanks to all those who organized and came out for the event. 

Christy specifically offered thanks to Brady, Brewer and the school for getting the game and raffle put together.

The turnout was clearly rather impressive, as Brewer said shirt sales, tickets and donation basket raffles raised roughly $8,000 – an impressive figure compared to the $3,000 she was originally shooting for.

While she acknowledged the impact these funds will hopefully have for the family, she also noted the focus when organizing the event was far more on raising awareness of Kaylee and her situation.

“It was never about the money so much for us,” Brewer said. “It was more of teaching our girls to give back to the community and that whenever a classmate or somebody in our community needs help, we need to show them support.”

Looking to the future, Brewer said similar fundraisers for the benefit of others in the community are a possibility.

On a related noted, Christy discussed several other young individuals in the community who have been struck by similarly devastating illnesses, including young Waterloo leukemia patient Elsie Wiemerslage.

She said folks should also offer their sympathies for the siblings of these children, as dealing with a serious illness is a struggle that impacts the entire family.

“There’s a lot of kids in our community right now that are sick, and it’s not easy on their siblings either,” Christy said. “It’s really rough on them because they are missing something too.”

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