Whitmer volleyball game dedicated to student, player battling Leukemia

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It was an ordinary volleyball game at Whitmer high school dedicated to an extraordinary player.

"She's a great kid," Jennifer St. John said of her daughter.

"She's a tough little cookie," her father added.

They're talking about Laila Rivers. The 14-year-old is a Whitmer freshman and a three-sport athlete. Under normal circumstances she'd be playing in Thursday's game, instead she has to watch from the bench.

Right now, she's in the middle of cancer treatment. Back in June, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

"I took her to the ER and 36 hours later she was getting surgery to get a port put in, chemo in her spine and another round of chemo," St. John said.

Treatment has been very aggressive, but that hasn't stopped Laila from getting up every day and fighting harder.

"I talk to myself and say, "it's going to be OK,"" she said. "I just think about someone who might be going through something harder so I have to push through this."

She also finds motivation in the outpouring of support shown by her community.

"Everybody is really stepping up more than we ever would have imagined and we're very grateful," Lamont Rivers, Laila's dad said.

Donning "Laila the Champ" shirts, the district raised money and awareness.

"We really want to show her that we're supporting her, we're behind her and she's not alone during this journey," Matthew Onweller, head coach, Whitmer Volleyball, said.

Her team took it a step further, making her an honorary captain for the game against Fremont Ross and giving her a signed game ball.

"They let me know that they think I'm still me and not this disease. I'm still a regular girl," Laila said.

Her road to recovery won't be easy but it's clearly filled with hope and love.

And when she's ready, her team will be waiting. Until then, she won't be fighting alone.

"It makes me feel like I have people behind me," Laila said.

The community will also be hosting a Spaghetti dinner benefit for the family. It's set for October 6, 2018. It runs from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Conn Weissenberger American Legion Post 587 at 2020 W. Alexis, Toledo, OH.