Climb and Shine for Shayla

April 30, 2009, 7:43 p.m. (ET)

Story courtesy of Westside Select 16U

On Feb. 22, 2009, the Westside SELECT 16U Volleyball team participated in the 801 Grand Power Climb, a fundraiser for the American Lung Association. The Event includes a vertical stair climb consisting of 41 floors, 85 flights of stairs and nearly 1,000 steps to the top of 801 Grand, the tallest building in Des Moines.

Westside chose a team name of “Climb and Shine for Shayla” to honor Shayla Holwegner, who was a 16-year-old girl diagnosed with Osteosarcoma after suffering a knee injury in a volleyball tournament. She began a long journey of healing and would not allow the doctors to amputate her infected legs because of her hope and determination of playing volleyball again. Holwegner lost her battle with cancer in December 2008.

The team members first found out about Shayla in the Volleyball USA magazine Winter 2008 issue when they got together for a team gathering. The article was so inspiring that the girls wanted to reach out and do something to honor Holwegner, while also making a contribution to their community and to a non-profit organization. Her story was so touching and inspiring that they team wanted to honor her bravery and determination, even though none of the girls had ever met her.

Along with a donation from Hubbell Realty Company and its employees, the team collected donations from family and friends and reached its goal of $1,200. The night before the climb, the team got together to make team shirts and set a team goal to be the fastest All-Female Team to the top of 801 Grand. And they did just that, receiving the Fastest All-Female Team Trophy.

Emilie Newbury, Westside's coach, says that she has never been more inspired by a group of young girls who were so dedicated to an event and completing it to honor someone they have never met. Their efforts to honor Holwegner and their decision to impact the community are inspiring and they hope that their dedication makes an impact on others.