JOLIET - Hundreds of fans packed the Joliet gymnasium Thursday night as the J-Hawks hosted the Red Lodge Rams in a volleyball match.
While the game generated a lot of excitement, many in the crowd knew they were in attendance for a bigger reason.
The game was a fundraiser for the Price family, whose four-year-old daughter Linleigh is battling a rare heart condition from birth.
"It was terrifying at the start," Linleigh's father Kaleb Price said. "It's always that, 'I never thought it'd be me' mentality. You hear about stuff, but this is our reality."
Her condition makes half of her heart useless. She has had three surgeries that work to allow the other half to function for her whole body.
"Unless you knew her or saw the scars, you wouldn't know she was any different," Price said.
Linleigh's latest surgery came with complications, so Price has been forced to travel the nearly 600 miles from Joliet to Denver multiple times since June. He said it's been challenging for both he and the family, as he teaches English at the high school.
"Unfortunately, this time around it's taken longer with more complications that weren't present last time," Price said. "Being here, I'm not fully present because I'm trying to coordinate things back home so it's definitely a split mindset."
On Thursday, the community rallied behind the Prices. For the 14th time, Joliet hosted a charitable volleyball game for someone in the community, where all concession sales, t-shirt sales, and proceeds from the silent auction are given to the family.
"We are overwhelmed by the support," Price said. "It's been more than just the volleyball game."
Joliet teacher and former volleyball coach Colette Webber started the tradition years ago, and she was in attendance Thursday night. She said the event represents what makes Joliet special.
"If someone is hurting in this community, we pull together," Webber said. "That's just what we do."
Webber said she's known Price for years, as he grew up as friends with her sons. She said the event typically means more than just the financial gain.
"What it does is it lets them know that a community loves and cares for them and is willing to come together for that person," Webber said. "I'm so proud that this continues to go on still."
Price was originally scheduled to be at the game to be honored by the crowd, but the complications kept him in Denver with Linleigh.
"Part of me would like to be there and say thank you," Price said. "The other part is like, I don't want to stand up and accept anything. You know, I'd rather bring Linleigh back."
And that is certainly the goal, as the Prices continue to learn from their daughter, attacking every day with a smile.
"She's still smiling and giggling and finds the little things each day," Price said. "I think that's an important lesson to learn from her."
Click here to visit the family's gofundme page.