By Ray Hamill — Following the lead of a local legend, the Ferndale girls showcased their support for a rival player who is battling cancer at one of the biggest games of their season this week.
And their act of kindness did not pass unnoticed.
Before their NCS basketball semifinal against South Fork at Ferndale on Wednesday night, the Wildcats lined up together with their opponents in t-shirts that read “Cats and Cubs Unite” on the front, and “#RAESTRONG” on the back, all in a touching show of support for South Fork freshman Raelyn Hawkins.
“We just wanted to support her,” Ferndale principal and soccer coach Beth Anderson said. “And the idea came from the girls and their families.”
Many of this group of Ferndale players have grown up playing multiple sports against Hawkins and her South Fork teammates, including basketball, soccer and softball, and the news recently that she has had to resume her battle with cancer after a seven-month remission was something they all felt.
“They’re very close, and it was a no-brainer that they wanted to do something for Raelyn,” said Meaghan Langer, who is the mother of Ferndale player Reaghan Langer and helped organize the show of support. “The game is huge to the girls, but we kind of brought it back into perspective, and there’s bigger stuff you have to deal with in life.”
The players were inspired by local legend Hailey Dolcini, who is a Ferndale native and one of the top college softball pitchers in the nation.
Dolcini, who has worked with and helped coach Raelyn and many of the South Fork and Ferndale players, wore a purple ribbon in her hair in support of Raelyn while pitching for Fresno State in the NCAA playoffs last year.
And the Ferndale players used that as motivation to do something.
“They followed in Hailey’s footsteps,” Meaghan Langer said.
In addition to making up the t-shirts, the Wildcats also held a 50/50 raffle which raised more than $1,000 for the Hawkins family, with the winner donating the winnings back to the cause.
Raelyn’s mother Sheena is the head coach of the South Fork girls team, but both daughter and mother are having to isolate for three months as they prepare to battle the cancer with stem cell harvesting.
In a letter to the Redhead Blackbelt on Thursday, South Fork Athletic Director Brandy Pancoast expressed the Cubs gratitude for the gesture.
“We are writing this letter to the Editor to say Thank You! To the Ferndale High School Girls’ Basketball Team, Superintendent/Principal Beth Anderson, AD Clint McClurg and the Community of Ferndale for their amazing support of one of our student athletes and her family at last night’s NCS Semi-Finals Girls Basketball game,” Pancoast wrote in the letter, adding that “We are in complete awe of this gesture and kindness. The sense of community feels amazing and is much appreciated.
“On behalf of the team, our school, and our community, Thank You, Ferndale!!!”
Anderson also praised the initiative of the Ferndale girls and community.
“I think our communities are amazing and they come together when something like this happens,” she said.
Amy Wilson and Wild Cactus Clothing in Fortuna helped with the t-shirts, getting them ready at a “moments notice,” according to Meaghan Langer.