Published DateMEREDITH — The scoreboard wasn't very kind to the Inter-Lakes Middle Tier softball team over the past two seasons. Regardless, coach Risa Jurius taught her team that the game can be fun without winning, that team cameraderie and athletic competition are reward in itself. This season, Jurius learned something from her players – together, they can help heal one another's grieving hearts.
When the team earned its first win this season, they dedicated the game to Lily Johnson, a 14 year-old Laconia girl who was killed on the afternoon of April 19, when a vehicle drove onto the sidewalk near Laconia Middle School and struck her and Allyssa Miner, also 14, as they were walking. Miner was seriously injured and is now home and recovering.
The team's second win was also played in honor of Lily, said Jurius. With four games left this season, the team boasts a record of 6-3. They've done more than play for Lily, they've also dedicated this year's fund raising efforts to benefit the "Lily Johnson Memorial Fund/Allyssa Miner Benefit Fund", established at Franklin Savings Bank. On Thursday, the team presented a representative of the bank with a check for $240.
Jurius said the team began its fund raising campaign with the goal of raising enough to defray the cost of team jackets, until parent Jim Dyer volunteered to cover the entire bill. Instead, Jurius decided to follow the lead already established by her players, who were thinking of and talking about the recent tragedy, and she redirected the money to help the families of two girls in a neighboring town. "I just piggybacked on their idea," said Jurius.
Fund raising activities included two bake sales and the raffle of a candy basket.
Although Lily and Allyssa are from another town and another school, many of the Inter-Lakes softball players knew them, some quite well. Rebecca Wild often hung out with Lily when the two found themselves watching a basketball game played by their younger siblings. When Wild was feeling lonely, she knew she could find company by Lily's side. "She had a really sweet personality, she was so nice. If you needed someone to talk to, she was always there for you."
"A lot of us knew them, we all had a kind of connection," said Rebecca Otis. "We wanted to help out because we knew it was something terrible that happened."
The girls on the team said the act of helping others brought a measure of relief from their own grief. Lindsey Rosette said, "I think it was awesome that we pulled together as a team for two special people and their families... It definitely helped me."
"It helped us feel better that we did something that helped," said Brianna Knauss.
Jurius said, "Inter-Lakes has had a lot of hard years as far as softball wins and losses. I'm happy we can put it all together – we've compassion and caring, and we have a winning record this year."
Winning record or no, Inter-Lakes Middle Tier principal Everett Bennett said the team has put together an exemplary season. "What they did is the example of what we want to be all about at the Middle Tier... They should be so proud of themselves."