Florida Gators

The Story Behind the Sunflowers: Team Heather


Florida head softball coach Tim Walton with Heather

*Photo courtesy of People.com

If you’ve ever watched a Florida softball game, you’ve seen the yellow sunflower each player wears in her hair. I’ve often wondered what the story is behind them, so I Googled it. What came up is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read.

The girls wear the flowers in honor of Heather, a teenager who passed away from brain cancer in 2014, according to NewsOK.com. The Friends of Jacelyn Foundation, who pairs cancer patients with sports teams, paired her with Florida’s softball team. The connection was immediate.

Every time Heather went to a game, she was welcomed into the Gators’ dugout. And as she went through treatment, both players and coaches were there with texts, calls, and gifts. They lifted her up, but it soon became obvious she was a gift to them as well. Though she tragically passed away in 2014, the girls still wear sunflowers for her, and Twizzlers, one of her favorite candies, are still popular in Florida’s dugout. In Florida’s locker room, Heather has a locker which pitcher Delanie Gourley says the Gators “will never…. (take) down.” She says the teenager touched them so much, and will always be a part of the team.

So now, when Florida’s softball team takes the field, they play for something much bigger than themselves. They play for the girl who inspires them, for the girl who embodied strength, courage, and inspiration. They play for Heather, who was, and always will be, a part of Florida softball.

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