The crowd screamed. All eyes were on her. She turned to her friends for help as blood rushed to her face, but they all backed away from her. Was this really happening? Did she wear her outfit on backwards? Her jaw dropped when she looked down.
Ashley Adamietz was hooked every time she saw the 2012 Olympics. Her heart raced as she watched the athletes do backflips, twirls, jumps, and flips. The athletes always managed to do what seemed impossible. Meanwhile, her mother enrolled her in horseback riding and ballet classes. She hoped these would be challenging for her. But one day, Ashley decided to give her mother some news that was very sad indeed.
Ballet was all about control, so it didn’t offer Ashley the thrill that she desperately needed. She wanted to experience the freedom she felt while horseback riding. She wanted to contort her body into different poses and shapes too. She also wanted to defy gravity. When she told this to her mother, she wasn’t really that shocked at all. But neither of them could have foreseen something that would alter their lives in a horrible way.
Most kids start training for the Olympics by the time they’re three. But Ashley was late to gymnastics. She was way too behind, and everyone knew it too. But Ashley enjoyed the sport and wasn’t interested in earning a gold medal. She heard her peers laugh as she tried and failed to do a cartwheel. Her limbs were weak and her balance was off. Her instructor believed she would drop out before the end of the first month, but Ashley was determined.
Eventually, Ashley was able to flip, spin, and jump better than the other students. Her limbs had gotten stronger. She excelled and was practically a natural. She also ate well and trained a lot. In the end, she was healthier and more fit than ever. But sadly, Ashley was about to get smacked with some devastating news.
The cheerleading team at Foothill High School in Palo Cedro, North California, needed a cheerleader, and Ashley was happy to join. She was outstanding too. But that same year, doctors diagnosed her with chronic myeloid leukemia. She shut down the moment the word “cancer” escaped from the doctors’ lips. She was only 18 and healthy. But this news left her shaken to the core.
Middle-aged adults tend to contract chronic myeloid leukemia. The white blood cells in the bone marrow are affected by those with this type of cancer. In the months before her diagnosis, Ashley became weak. Her weight dropped, and no matter what she ate, she felt drained all the time. She assumed it was just stress because of her senior year or maybe she had some sort of deficiency. But cancer was the last thing she expected to have.
Typically, 64-year-olds contract chronic myeloid leukemia, but Ashley was a very rare case. Her doctors decided the treatment that would be best for their young patient, and they didn’t waste any time either. They were confident she could beat this because she was young, fit, and strong. Regardless, Ashley decided not to tell anyone what she had. But she lived in a small town, and eventually, word of her condition spread like wildfire.
Ashley had cancer, but she didn’t want her life to change. She wanted it to remain as normal as possible. So, she continued going to school. She even participated in cheerleading practice. She did her chores and studied. But when people heard she was sick, they started staring at her. She didn’t want others to treat her different, but she couldn’t really control how others behaved towards her.
Despite her diagnosis, Ashley was looking forward to cheering at the first game. This made her feel normal. Plus, she was elated to continue doing what she enjoyed the most. But everyone just stared at her as she walked into the field wearing her red, white and black uniform. She turned to her squad and asked, “What’s going on?” As they made way for the approaching football team, her face turned red.
Each member of the Cougar’s football team lay an orange rose at her feet. At first, she wondered, what was happening? Then it all became quite clear. Orange ribbons promoted leukemia awareness around the globe. The football team had clearly done some research. But who was responsible for this? Did her mom have a hand in this?
The Cougar’s team captain, Ryan Caetano, knew how difficult cancer was. His mother had developed breast cancer a few years earlier. So, when he heard about Ashley, the news hit him pretty hard. Fortunately, his mom went into remission, but Caetano knew that the treatment wouldn’t be easy on Ashley. But no one realized he’d do something this sweet.
“Ashley’s part of the Cougar family. So why not let her know that we’re all here for her?” Caetano explained. “I wanted to let that be known to everybody and especially for her, for what she’s going through.” Caetano’s teammates always described him as shy, so his actions were uncharacteristically touching, and his mom was also very proud.
The Cougars’ mantra was courage, honor, spirit, and skill, and they chanted it before and during a game. But now, every student understood what these words represented. Ashley never suspected anything when her friend texted her asking to come to the field a few minutes earlier. She assumed they wanted to rehearse the routine again before the game started. She never realized everyone would go to the lengths they did. But it gets even more interesting.
The thoughtful gesture was recorded and uploaded by the Foothill High School students. YouTubers, Twitter, and Facebook users were touched by the amazing moment of comradery. The video was liked and shared, and people commented and praised the students at the school too. The video eventually went viral. But did the school’s faculty and staff have any objection to this unscheduled disruption right before the football game?
Foothill’s football coach, Joey Brown, had this to share about the experience. “To see our players do something like that for one of our own—we were proud coaches, proud fathers, and proud fans that night. Our players are learning how a simple act of kindness can really impact millions,” he explained. But Ashley wasn’t the only one emotionally overwhelmed by her peers’ gesture.
“We had to check our emotions,” Brown admitted. The coach had to retain his tough exterior, but there were undoubtedly a couple of times he got misty eyed. “We’ve always worked long at developing character.” Fortunately, teaching his students about kindness seemed to have worked, after all. And Ashley definitely agreed.
Ashley was facing a really tough year full of treatments. To pile on to that, she also wanted to continue cheering and studying. Some days were easier than others. But thankfully, she had her family and friends to get her through the rough patches. And days like the one on the field reminded her she had tons of people rooting for her. So, she went online and shared her reaction.
Ashley went online and wrote, “I was shocked, overwhelmed, and overall speechless. I can’t thank you enough for making me cry tears of joy. I love you Foothill High School.” The now 20-year-old shared that she re-watched the video every now and then. But can you blame her? It was such a touching and unforgettable moment. Ashley was grateful for other moments too.
After months of undergoing chemotherapy, Ashley was able to beat cancer. Since then, she’s spent the last two years doing things that were on her bucket list. Best of all, her long-term boyfriend proposed to her! It seems like the power of positivity really does pull off miracles. But how was she ever going to repay her classmates for their love and support?