uring a three-match homestand this season, members of the Oklahoma volleyball team put ribbons in their hair and shoelaces to show support for three causes close to the program.
Twice, the Sooners were a part of larger initiatives, holding a Pink Night for breast cancer awareness and hosting a Mental Health Awareness game with West Virginia and OU soccer.
For the third match, however, the Sooners wore light blue ribbons to support a lesser-known cause: Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. The Sooners played that match in honor of a little girl with big fight, Mattie Hurley.
hen Kacy Hurley was halfway through her pregnancy with Mattie, she learned her baby had a birth defect called CDH.
“Usually it’s just a small hole in the diaphragm and some intestines, or the stomach might come up through that into the chest,” Kacy explains. “But, when (Mattie) was born, she had no diaphragm on the left side, and many complications came from that. She only had one lung fully developed, her heart was pushed to the right side of her chest and her spine did not develop straight.
“Only 50 percent of babies with CDH… survive, and because her defect was so severe, she only had a 10 percent chance to survive,” Kacy shares.
Mattie spent three months in the neonatal intensive care unit at the OU Medicine Children’s Hospital. Her parents were told she likely would not live past 5 years old.
“Not only did she kick the 10 percent and beat those odds, she is now 7 and a half, in ballet and gymnastics and just active and a perfect little girl,” Kacy says.
Mattie is now a miracle child for the Children’s Hospital Foundation, and the Hurley family travels around the state of Oklahoma to share their story and the impact of the OU Children’s Hospital.
The No. 1 donor to the OKC Children’s Hospital Foundation is located at the University of Oklahoma. Soonerthon, the official philanthropy of OU’s Campus Activities Council, is an annual 12-hour dance marathon that raised over $1 million in 2017-18. OU student groups, including the volleyball team, raise money every school year before the yearly event each March.
“OU volleyball is actually the only sport that does Soonerthon,” OU sophomore Paige Anderson explains. “I think over the years, OU volleyball has just really gotten into it. I came in (last year) and my teammates told me about it, and I was like, ‘That is amazing. I can’t wait for that to happen.’”
Some groups are partnered up with a miracle child at the event. For the past several years, the OU Volleyball team has participated in Soonerthon alongside Mattie and her family.
In addition to spending the entirety of Soonerthon with Mattie, the Sooners will also plan events with the Hurley family throughout the year. The team has built a lasting bond with Mattie as a result.
“This is how (Mattie) says it: she loves her volleyball girls. They are her favorite,” Kacy shares. “I think what Mattie does for the team is… she inspires them. I think they see what she goes through and how positive she remains, and it’s so fun to see them interact with her because it’s like they’ve been friends for years. It’s not just when Mattie comes to the game or they come to a Soonerthon event, they’re involved with Mattie and a part of her life, and that is just amazing.”
Paige says, “I love that girl. She’s a firecracker. She lights up the room any time she walks in and she’s a little thing so it’s just so fun to see her. She comes to the volleyball games and she just always puts a smile on your face.”
hen the Sooners decided to host three cause games in 2018, they intentionally decided to support individuals close to the program. For the Hurley family, it was surreal to learn the volleyball team was honoring Mattie at a match.
“That was just – I can’t even describe it really,” Kacy shares. “To know that she, a little 7 year old, has impacted them that way – I can’t even describe it… (Mattie) always says she is the luckiest girl in the world and that they love her so much.”
For the Sooners, it was important to use their platform as student-athletes to benefit those closest to them.
“I think that even if it was just little, it showed that we really support each cause and we really want to be there for the people that it’s for,” Paige says.
Especially for their biggest fan, Mattie Hurley.