A-K Valley notebook: We Serve First Foundation sponsors volleyball campers, coach

Thursday, June 7, 2018 | 9:30 PM

Ellen and Tim Toy found strength through volleyball during Ellen's years-long battle with cancer, and the sport continues to serve as a way to honor her legacy after her death.

The We Serve First Foundation, created in 2015 as Ellen Toy battled stomach cancer — the former Kiski Area, Leechburg and Plum girls volleyball coach died in February 2016 — is sponsoring three Alle-Kiski volleyball players and a coach as they attend a Give It Back Foundation camp in late July in Anaheim, Calif.

In a nod to Toy's three coaching stops, Plum's Makayla Jackson, Leechburg's McKenna Pierce and Kiski Area's Cassie Shoupe will attend the camp, which is hosted by current and former members of the U.S. National Team. Plum coach Kelsey Bonk also will attend.

“We've lived this situation out in a public way with (Ellen's) struggles, and we thought it only fair to (set up the foundation) as we wound down through the last days,” said Tim Toy, Ellen's widower. “People took to the idea of the foundation. It got a lot of support from friends and family and people around the country.”

The camp costs $289 and is supported by the foundation, which also has a GoFundMe page for donations to support this venture and others located at www.gofundme.com/um4uxs.

Ellen Toy battled gastric cancer for more than six years, stepping aside for a time before returning after having a gastrectomy to remove her stomach. Kiski Area's “Jam the Gym” fundraiser began in 2010 as Toy and assistant Jaime Vick Moran battled cancer; Vick Moran died from complications due to leukemia.

Jam the Gym also helped create a bond with the U.S. National Team. Ellen and Tim Toy traveled to watch them play in Anaheim and Omaha, Neb., before Ellen's death. Tim Toy went to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil, to support the team after Ellen's death.

‘Marvelous' trip for Freeport

Plenty of recognition rolled in for Freeport after the Yellowjackets won their first PIAA Class AA girls volleyball championship in November, but the Yellowjackets' celebration continued this week with a trip to the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg.

The Yellowjackets attended after getting invited by State Rep. Jeff Pyle, a Kittanning native and former mayor of Ford City. Pyle recognized the team on the floor of the state House of Representatives.

“It was marvelous,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “It was a great day for us. All of my girls went, and to be recognized and go through that whole place there is truly amazing. We were treated like royalty.”

The Freeport contingent, which included players, coaches, parents, athletic director Shawn Stivenson and Mayor James Swartz, also received a tour of the Capitol building.

“It was very moving, it really was,” Phillips said. “To me, it kind of punctuated what the season really meant. To be in such a wonderful place and to be recognized by so many was very moving.”

After falling to Beaver in the WPIAL championship match, Freeport won four consecutive matches in the state playoffs and took down Delone Catholic, 3-1, in the PIAA final. Seniors Claire Crytzer, Courtney Grubbs and Hannah Mason and junior Ally DeJidas earned a spot on the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association's all-state team. In March, Freeport Borough unveiled a road sign recognizing the team's accomplishment along Second Street.

Head of state

After winning a PIAA gold medal with a personal-best high jump last month, Valley senior Darius Johnson received some recognition for it this week.

The Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association named Johnson third-team all-state earlier this week after he won the PIAA Class AA high jump by clearing 6 feet, 7 inches.

Johnson also claimed the WPIAL Class AA title, clearing 6-5.

A Giant leap

The No. 2 pick in this week's MLB Draft has an Alle-Kiski Valley connection.

Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart, picked second overall by the San Francisco Giants, is the son of former Burrell three-sport standout Tommy Bart. Tommy Bart at one time held the Bucs' single-game touchdown record with five and also starred in baseball, getting drafted by the Pirates but electing to go to college instead.

Joey Bart's older brother, Mikey, played football for North Carolina.

A semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award given to college baseball's top player and finalist for the Johnny Bench Award given to the top catcher, Joey Bart led the ACC with a .359 batting average and hit a team-high 16 home runs. He was named first-team All-ACC.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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