The Ohio Wesleyan women’s lacrosse team said goodbye to a teammate in December, and will dedicate this season to her memory.
Adopted player Violet Baier, 7, passed away on December 7. She would have been 8 last Thursday.
The team adopted Violet as part of the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation (FOJ), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors. Through FOJ, women’s sports teams around the country adopt children with brain tumors.
Kat Enders ’12 says her teammates were able to support one another through the grieving process. “We were able to process it as a team. It was harder on the older girls who knew Violet best. It helped to be together as a team and then go home (for winter break) and be with our families.”
Annie Swanson ’13 says it was good to be able to go home after the funeral. “The whole campus kind of knew what was going on with us, so it was good to know people were supporting us. But it was tough because you never knew when someone would say something that would jerk you to become emotional.”
Swanson says the team is doing well, but there are a few moments now and then when grief overtakes them.
“It might hit us the first game when she’s not there on the sidelines,” she says.
Alumnae and current players are still eager to be involved with the Baier family and the FOJ Foundation. Enders says the team is still very close with Violet’s family, especially her mother Robin Baier. The Baiers have been to several basketball games to support Tyler Cordell ’11 and Natalie Fisher ’12, who are dual-sport athletes. Violet has two older brothers, and Enders says they have begun to open up to the team.
“We love them to death,” she says.
Coach Julie Duffy says the team is going to keep the Baier family close to their hearts, literally and figuratively. The team is getting memorial patches on their jerseys, placed over their hearts. The patches are circular and will have Violet’s initials printed in purple. The players will continue wearing purple shoelaces in memory of Violet.
Enders says Violet’s locker is still standing in the locker room.
“This is definitely a huge motivational factor,” she says.
Duffy says that though the team is not going to adopt another child from FOJ yet, they will continue to promote research for pediatric brain tumors.
“We will continue to be a part of FOJ and the Baier family, who will always be a part of the OWU lacrosse family,” she says.
Duffy says there are many good memories of Violet that will inspire the team this season.
“Violet always talked about how she was going to beat her cancer, she had a ‘never give up’ personality,” Duffy says. “I had the privilege of giving Violet’s eulogy and in it one of the best memories a lot of my players had of Violet was just being kids again, listening to top-20 music, and playing lots of card games.”
The team, along with the rest of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC), will continue to support FOJ. Duffy says there has been a lot of support from other conference teams, and that other schools would bring gifts to Violet when they played OWU.
As much as the women’s lacrosse team has helped Violet’s family, Duffy said the entire experience has made her team closer and more mature.
“They don’t stress about the little things as much anymore, they enjoy what they are doing more, and they want to make Violet and the Baiers proud of them,” she says. “I truly think it’s what is making them work as hard as they are right now. I am so proud to have a team that cares as much as they do, and understands what an honor it is to play sports and to realize there is so much more to life.”
This is a video that we made for the 5K race. It has a bunch of our girls talking about what Violet and FOJ means to them. Feel free to spread it around.