TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Although just 14 years old, Laila Rivers has inspired countless lives. All this in the midst of her battle with Leukemia.
Thursday night the teen was honored and supported in a place she was eager to return to, the gym floor.
It may look like just a volleyball game, but Thursday's match between Whitmer and Fremont Ross was much more.
Students chanted, "I believe that we will win" as the home team fought a little harder for a victory. All this because their teammate is fighting a battle of her own.
"It's kind of like a roller-coaster," said Laila Rivers.
Laila was feeling a bit sluggish during a basketball game. Her mom noticed and knew something was wrong. She immediately took her to the ER, that intuition led to a diagnosis just days later, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
"It hits you in the gut," explained Jennifer St. John, Laila's mom. "You fall to your knees."
Since her diagnosis in June, Laila's had several spinal taps and lots of chemo, but she hasn't let any of it get her down. Her motto is faith not fear, something she is full of.
"I just kind of think of it as someone else is going through something that is harder than what I am going through," explained Rivers. "And also, I can't just sit and be sad all the time because then it doesn't make it any more fun."
Her strength encourages others.
"She inspires us, which is rare it should be the other way around being the parents, but I mean we support her always," said Lamont Rivers, Laila's dad. "Just to see her drive and her fight, it's very inspiring and the community around us has been embracing us."
Thursday members of the Washington Local School District united at their volleyball game to support leukemia and Laila.
"We are panther proud to have her as an honorary captain tonight and award her our game ball," announced Whitmer staff ahead of the Varsity Volleyball game.
Laila was the honorary captain, announced with the team, awarded the game ball and sat alongside her teammates the whole game.
"We kind of wanted to bring her in," said her coach Matthew Onweller, head Whitmer volleyball coach. "We kind of wanted to let her know the kind of support system she had, let her know she wasn't alone and kind of wanted to make her feel like this is her family and we'll always be behind her."
The school raised money for her family as they try to pay medical expenses, but the competitors, Fremont Ross also chipped in to help.
"It's nice to feel the love and support from everyone because at first I thought people would just brush it off after a week," said Laila Rivers. "But knowing that it's still going on, it makes me feel like I have people behind me."
While it is clear Laila is a star athlete, she is also a hard-working student, one teachers rave about.
After her diagnosis, all Laila wanted was to return to the court as she did Thursday night and get back to school. She hoped she would come back as student council president.
"She wanted to run for president and she told me she was afraid she might not be able to," explained her mom, Jennifer St. John. "Well yesterday she was able to go to a student council meeting and she is co-president of student council."
Laila said that just the beginning for her. She going to continue fighting and defying the odds all with a smile on her face.
If you want to help Laila and her battle you can donate to her goFundme page or attend an upcoming fundraiser.
The community is hosting a spaghetti dinner on Saturday, October 6th from 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the Conn Weissenberger Amerian Legion Post 587. Tickets are $15.00 for adults, $8.00 for kids 5-12 and children four and under eat free.
If you would like to follow Laila on her journey and learn about her fight you can follow her Facebook page "Laila the Champ."