Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Getting the (volley)Ball Rolling

Today, I got a phone call from the Valley News Dispatch. The reporter, like many others, wanted to know what the buzz was about. Why are people sporting white tees marked with three hopeful words? What does Finding Nemo have to do with the KA volleyball team? He listened intently as I raved about Ellen Toy's strength, Jaime Moran's legacy, and the support of the Kiski Area, Leechburg, and Burrell school districts. There were so many questions that could only be answered with pride.
I told him I wrote a letter to the Ellen Show, and that no, they haven't gotten back to me. As I began to reveal my ideas to the reporter, I feared that the movement had reached a stand still. I guess I thought getting our story on national television would happen over night! But, if there is one thing Ellen Toy's coaching has taught me, (and believe me, there are plenty) it is to never ever give up.
I haven't called it quits, I promise. I'm not going to rest until the woman who has inspired me is sitting next to another Ellen spreading her words of hope to millions.
I have a dream, and I know you all hear me. But, I can't do this alone. After all, the squeaky wheel gets the oil! Let's get loud again. Fill twitter's feed with #EllenOnEllen and write to Ms. Degenerous herself. Share this blog with family and friends, and post pictures in those t-shirts. Read the newspaper and know our story. Be a part of something special. Help the world find out why we need to see Ellen On Ellen.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Have You Heard?

In the past couple of weeks, Mr. Capanna and the Kiski Area Intermediate School students have been working on a project to promote Ellen On Ellen. He entered the video linked below into a contest! With the theme, "Show the Good Side of the Internet," he couldn't pass up the opportunity to share this movement! Winners are determined from views and ratings, so share this video if you haven't done so already! You must register with an email account for your votes to count! Special appearances by Ellen Toy, Lauren Westcoat, and the junior high team! I just know that this video can help us even more in our efforts to get #EllenOnEllen! Click here to see the video!

A Letter to the Ellen Show

Hi Ellen! My name is Gracie McDermott. I go to Kiski Area High School,and I'm a junior. Every week, I watch your show and see all of the incredible individuals you bring on to share their stories. I want to tell you about my real life hero. Attached to this entry is a picture of my volleyball team. You'll see the personalities of 30 girls and 4 coaches captured in one silly freeze-frame. But, there is more than meets the eye. On the right, head coach, Ellen Toy,stands next to coach Jaime Moran. The picture couldn't tell you, but I will. Ellen was diagnosed with gastric cancer in 2009. Jaime was diagnosed with leukemia when she was a freshman in high school. The two women have fought cancer with grace. Through good news and bad, my coaches have demonstrated incredible strength through the years. In August of 2012, Jaime lost her fight. Just a few months later, my best friend and teammate lost her life in a traumatic accident. Then, in March, Ellen told us her cancer had come back. My team has been put through the ringer, but no matter what, Ellen Toy had always been there to comfort us and motivate us to push through the hardships. I wanted to give back to Coach, so I came up with the idea, Ellen On Ellen. I made a twitter page, @EllenOnEllen, and the hashtag began to trend almost immediately. My goal is to get my Ellen to meet you. The whole world should feel her power. You can read more about our story on I pray that you will help me share this hopeful tale.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Graceful Goddess

Hi everyone! I'm sorry I have been slacking on #EllenOnEllen lately. Don't give up on us, this is possible. Read about what I think about Ellen and share this with your friends! Love you all! Thanks for believing in this cause.

Ellen Toy. Some of you know her as Coach, some as a teacher. She is a mother, she is a wife, she is a survivor. Mrs. Toy takes life by the horns and teaches beautiful lessons to those who surround her. Coach is fierce, yet calm. She's no less than a complete inspiration.

Perhaps one of the most notable aspects of Ellen's personality is her "rock" status. When the going gets tough, you can bet that she is prepared to give words of hope. The Kiski Area Volleyball Team has had more than our fair share of adversity. "That boy can't play with the girls," fans shouted from bleachers. KAVB remained strong. Leukemia and Gastric Cancer tried to break us down. We stayed hopeful. The loss of a coach and a teammate within one year took a toll on the team. Kiski Volleyball pulled through. The truth is, no amount of success could have been possible without Ellen Toy.

Just last night, I was at a junior high volleyball tournament talking about Coach's strength and power. Liz Reccia put Ellen into one word that has been repeating in my mind since then. Ellen Toy is a goddess. She has gracefully taken every challenge thrown her way and transformed it into a beautiful lesson of hope. She's incredible and I am so blessed to be able to call her my coach. We're all blessed to call her our teacher.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Coach Jaime: The Beginning

When you try out for a team, audition for a musical, or apply for a job, there are many things you can expect. New relationships and a new schedule. Different people and a new atmosphere. The second the phone rings with a confirmation call or the list is posted outside of the gym/auditorium, one thing is certain. Your life changes. Its up to you to decide if this change will make or break you.
I tried out for the Kiski Area Volleyball team as a seventh grader in 2009. I remember being nervous and excited all at the same time. There were more than 60 girls trying out that season. We'd tie our hair into ponytails, pull new kneepads over our knees, and hit the court to show the coaches what we could do (which was not that much, let me tell you). We wanted nothing more than a chance to wear those blue, gold, and white uniforms. By the end of the week, I was making inside jokes with girls I had never even heard of a few days earlier. The list was posted on a Friday after school. 60 was reduced to 15, and I was a part of it. You can probably imagine my seventh grade excitement.
Under the watchful eye of Coach Jaime Vick-Moran, my team began to grow. Serves were missed, passes were shanked, and a pass-set-hit to get the ball over the net was unheard of (excuse my volleyball lingo). Nonetheless, I was a part of a team. We all were. And that was special. The picture below was taken at a volleyball tournament minutes after a messy battle using the icing from Jaime's engagement cake. I can honestly say that I remember this day like it was yesterday.
Jaime was an amazing coach. She was an amazing woman in general. Just look at her smile, so effortlessly beautiful! Those of you who have referred to probably have heard about my coach. If not, let me give you a quick refresher. Jaime was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) when she was a freshman at Kiski. She overcame her cancer in high school. Unfortunately,her leukemia relapsed when she was in college. Jaime's twin sister, Jodie donated her bone marrow to grant Jaime six more years without cancer.  Jaime was re-diagnosed in 2010 when she was coaching my 8th grade team. My teammates and I were scared. She was a fighter, though, so we knew she could overcome it again. As the years went on, we watched Jaime gracefully battle a terrible disease that not even the smartest doctor could understand. I'm constantly reminded of her strength, positivity, and poise in her fight.The years passed, and two Jam The Gym events took place at my school to raise money for charities in Jaime's name. Jaime's mother frequently sent out informational emails regarding our coach's condition. Some weeks were better than others, but we kept faith.
In July of 2012, the summer before my 11th grade year, my team was at the University of Pitt for a grueling week of volleyball skills training. On the last day of camp, Coach Ellen sat us down and told us that Jaime had become very ill from her treatment. She was is so much pain and just was not going to make it. I was devastated. The tears poured as the girls and I clung to each other trying to make sense of the harsh reality we didn't want to face. On August 6, 2012, my coach passed away.
If you know me personally, you've probably figured out by now out that I do not take things lightly, nor do I struggle with crying in public settings. Needless to say, I was a wreck for weeks after. I just could not understand why bad things happen to good people. I still don't understand. Through all of the sadness, though, I can say something that some people aren't lucky enough to. I didn't only have my parents and sisters to help me through my grief. Unified under Jaime's fight and legacy, I had  my coaches, my entire volleyball team, their families surrounding me, offering words of hope and encouragement.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am blessed. I'm blessed to have met Jaime. I'm blessed to be a part of the KAVB family. I'm blessed because I had the opportunity to let being on the team shape who I am today.  I'm blessed to  be able to share this intricately beautiful story that started with one strong woman with you all.
Thank you so much for reading and finding out how the fire was started. Please keep checking this page for more pieces of the Ellen On Ellen puzzle.


Hi! My name is Gracie McDermott, and welcome to the Ellen On Ellen blog! I am a 17 year old girl on the Kiski Area Volleyball Team who is determined to make a difference. Let me start off by saying thank you for clicking on the link I've posted on Twitter/Facebook to direct you here. I can't tell you how much your support means to me. If you're here, you're curious. You want to know why everyone has been urging you to tweet #EllenOnEllen. You want to hear the story countless retweets have encouraged you to discover. You want to be a part of something special. Fortunately, I'm prepared to share everything. So, thanks again for expressing interest in Ellen On Ellen. I look forward to sharing this journey with you.