WNBA team’s practice at Brookwood benefits Riley Foundation
SNELLVILLE — The Atlanta Dream have never been hesitant to “Take the Show on the Road” to Brookwood High School.
And the WNBA franchise has never hesitated to honor Amanda Riley, the former Brookwood athlete who lost her battle of cancer a little more than a year ago.
For the second time in less than a year, the Dream were back at Brookwood’s Maroon Gymnasium for one of the six “Take the Show on the Road” promotions they do throughout Georgia during the season.
The proceeds for the Dream’s program — which included a team practice and autograph session with the players — went to the foundation created in Riley’s name to help other children who are battling cancer like she did before it took her life on April 9, 2010.
“When Amanda was sick in February or March, (the Dream) had offered to redecorate her bedroom,” said Riley’s mother Barbara, who helped create the foundation with her husband Steve. “Once we knew she wasn’t going to make it, we asked if they’d redecorate the locker room in her memory. ... And we’ve kept the relationship going.
“(Amanda) definitely did touch a lot of lives.”
Indeed, Riley’s brave fight has inspired several Dream players who relish being able to help an organization like the Amanda Riley Foundation with events like Monday’s practice.
“It’s extremely inspiring to know she fought so hard and so long,” said Dream guard and former Georgia Bulldog Coco Miller. “She was a such a wonderful young lady. You can tell that by her family and friends. I think it’s great the Amanda Riley Foundation — what it does. What it’s set up to do.
“And it’s great to reach out to (fans in) different parts of Georgia and Atlanta. Hopefully, we can reach out to young girls who maybe aren’t able to come to the games. Hopefully can entice them to come. And hopefully we can inspire them in some way to do what we do.”
Part of the goal for Monday’s event was to impress upon others the way Amanda Riley was inspired by basketball and how she inspired others with her battle.
Barbara Riley notes that The Amanda Riley Foundation was set up not to raise funds for cancer research, but to help make the lives of children battling cancer and their families better, even if for a few moments.
The foundation has raised somewhere between $45,000 and $50,000 to date, which has gone to purchase items like televisions, iPods, wigs, computers and other items for cancer patients, as well as cover costs of meals and gas during frequent trips to hospitals and clinics for treatment.
And Barbara Riley is pleased with how well events like Monday’s have been able to both honor her daughter and aid the foundation that bears her name.
“Ever since Amanda was about 7 or 8 years old, she played basketball,” Barbara Riley said. “It’s always been a huge part of our lives. It’s really awesome to get to know the Dream and have a relationship with the members of the team and work together.
“We walked through the same journey that (families) who are currently battling cancer are going through. We know what they need — the children and the families of the children. We saw a lot of kids who did not have the advantages Amanda had. ... So, our foundation is to provide for children while they’re in the midst of their battle during the hardest time.
Miles-4-Smiles Inaugural Race Raises Money for Children with Cancer
The first 5K run/walk sponsored by the Amanda Riley Foundation attracted 260 runners and scores of volunteers to Tribble Mill Park this past weekend.
Amanda's teammates on the Brookwood cross country and track teams ran the race. They included Caroline Kissel, Sarah Perry, Carsen Harris, Danielle Jarnagin and Melissa White.
About 260 runners and sponsors raised $12,000 for children battling cancer at the the inaugural Miles-4-Smiles 5K Run/Walk, which was sponsored by the Amanda Riley Foundation over the weekend at Tribble Mill Park in Lawrenceville.
Barbara Riley, of Snellville, whose daughter Amanda died of cancer a little more than a year ago, said the race was a success. Funds were raised through sponsorship, concessions, jewelry sales and the race participants, Riley said.
“It was awesome,” said Riley after the race. “It was a beautiful day for it. Once again, the community came out and supported Amanda’s memory and the foundation. It was everything I’d imagined and more.”
Riley appreciated all the volunteer support and especially thanked Brookwood High School’s lead cross country and track coaches, Chris Carter and Kelly Sowers, who were instrumental in race preparations.
Carter and Sowers coached Amanda, who was an avid runner and basketball player at Brookwood High before being diagnosed March 2009 with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer of muscle tissue. Amanda died after 405 days of battling the disease.
“Amanda loved to run. We wanted to do something that represented her,” Riley said.
Michael Sexton, a former Brookwood High School runner who attends Berry College in Rome, was the overall men’s winner with a time of 16.43; Holly Ortlund was the overall women’s winner with a time of 18.17.
When asked why he participated in the race, Ron Byrnes of Lawrenceville whose daughter ran track and cross country with Amanda said he ran “to support Amanda and the foundation, to be with friends and to enjoy the day.”
One of the most touching moments of the day’s events was the balloon release. Participants released red, blue and yellow balloons. Riley explained that the red balloons represent “our love for the children who are still fighting cancer.” The blue balloons, the color of the sky, stand for “the children who are in heaven.” The yellow balloons are for Amanda.
Yellow was the 17-year-old's favorite color “and she was always our sunshine,” her mother said.
The foundation is gearing up for their next community event: the Atlanta Dreams’ “Take the Show on the Road” visit to Brookwood High School on Monday, July 11. For more information, visit the Amanda Riley Foundation website.
Amanda Riley Continues to Inspire
The Brookwood High athlete died about a year ago, but her school and parents make sure she is not forgotten.
Amanda Riley would have been a senior at Brookwood High School this year. She would have triumphed with the girls’ basketball team in winning the regional championship. She would have been an integral part of the cross-country team that came in second in the state. In some ways, she still was.
After battling cancer for a little more than a year, Amanda died on April 9. Her tenacious spirit inspired her teammates and high school peers, and it continues to.
“Amanda’s fighting spirit is a great inspiration to us,” said Scott Terry, head coach of the Brookwood girls’ basketball team. “Amanda is still with us and will always be in our hearts.”
At the beginning of the season, the team met to set goals. Doing well at the Deep South Classic and the regional championship were among priorities, but they also wanted to do something to remember Amanda. The team wore a patch with Amanda’s initials on their uniforms. In addition, Amanda’s locker remains intact in the team locker room.
“Honoring Amanda was at the top of the list,” Terry said.
Amanda’s teammate, Katie Mallow, who is heading to Appalachian State University on a basketball scholarship this fall, said that honoring Amanda meant remembering the reason they play the game.
“We play basketball because we love the game,” she said. “We don’t take our ability to play for granted. We play our best, but our number one goal should be to have fun – the word play is not just about playing the game.”
The team retired Amanda’s jersey at the beginning of the season, and the number 22 – Amanda’s number -- is etched into the team shirts. In addition, Mallow said, their senior shirt had five girls on the front while noting that there were five seniors on the court and one in their hearts.
“During all the big games, we wrote 22 on our wrists with a Sharpie as a reminder to play every game as if it’s your last,” Mallow added. “You never know. You could get hurt and tear up your knee and not be able to play. Anything could happen. We played every second as if we were about to be taken off the court.”
It also was very important to the team to make sure that Barbara and Steve Riley, Amanda’s parents, knew that their daughter was loved and remembered. Even after Amanda’s death, the Rileys still came to several of the games to support the team. Their daughter played with many of the girls for years.
“Basketball was such a huge part of our lives for so many years,” said Barbara Riley. “We still love the game. We still love the girls. They have been so supportive of us and Amanda.”
Coach Terry, she added, has been exceptional.
“The things he’s done to preserve Amanda’s memory continue to be amazing,” she said.
Amanda was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that strikes about 50 children a year who are treated through Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and has a survival rate of less than 30 percent, Barabra Riley said.
“If it relapses, the survival rate is zero,” she said.
To help children like their daughter, the Rileys began The Amanda Riley Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to help bring smiles to children battling cancer.
During Amanda’s cancer fight, the family learned of other children like her, but who were not receiving support. Items such as clothing and wigs were needed for many, Barbara Riley said.
“We want to put smiles on their faces while they are in the fight of their lives,” she said.
Brookwood art teacher Deb Sumpter designed a logo for the foundation that incorporates Amanda’s red Volkswagen along with the sun – "we always called Amanda our sunshine," Barbara said. The slogan, Bringing Smiles to Kids Battling Cancer, fits because Amanda was known for her smile.
To raise funds, the foundation has sold jewelry and T-shirts and held dinners at local restaurants. Upcoming events include a dinner on March 29 at O’Charley’s restaurant in Snellville, and a June 5K walk/run and one-mile fun run, Miles for Smiles. Brookwood High School cross country and track coaches Chris Carter and Kelly Sowers are helping plan the event.
The foundation is working with a social worker at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to identify children that need help. Barbara Riley said they then work to put together care packages for families.
“Sometimes when you go to the clinic, you’re sent to the hospital and you’re not prepared,” she said.
Other items the foundation would like to provide are books, crayons, journals, hand-held games and other items that would take a child’s mind off uncomfortable treatments like chemotherapy and blood transfusions. To help with these efforts, the nonprofit accepts in-kind items as well as monetary donations.
An accountant by trade, Riley put together a foundation “by the seat of my pants,” she said. She looked at other websites and talked to people who ran foundations, but the hard work has been worth it to her.
Amanda remains her mother’s inspiration.
“One thing that she learned and tried to make people understand is that when you have a healthy body, you have unlimited possibilities,” she said. “She always strived to be the best and gave 100 percent.”
Forever hers: Broncos retire No. 22 in Riley’s honor
Posted: 7:25 PM Aug 19, 2010
Reporter: By Brandon Brigman
Email Address: email@example.com
SNELLVILLE — When Amanda Riley was growing up, she insisted on wearing No. 22 on her basketball jersey.
And if someone already had the number, she would play them for it and win it back.
Brookwood’s girls basketball program made sure no one would ever wear that number again. The Broncos retired Riley’s jersey posthumously on Thursday in the school’s gym in front of family, teammates and friends.
“There aren’t words to express how honored we are. There aren’t words,” Riley’s mother Barbara said. “She’s certainly smiling down on us tonight because she loved that number and she loved this school. Just to know no one else will ever put that uniform on means a lot to her. I know it does. It means a lot to us.”
Riley died this spring at the age of 17 after a 13-month battle with cancer. Her No. 22, which is the day she was born, is the first jersey to be retired in Brookwood’s basketball program for boys or girls.
“I mean, it’s amazing, she deserves it,” longtime friend and teammate Katie Mallow said. “It makes people remember what she was like here and people won’t forget that.”
Thursday’s jersey retirement was part of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream Take the Show on the Road campaign. All the proceeds from the event went toward the Riley Foundation and the Dream upgraded the Broncos’ locker room with a flat screen TV and furniture in Riley’s honor.
“She was such an Atlanta Dream fan,” Dream coach Marynell Meadors said. “You’ve got to do something, even if it’s a little bit. This was just a little bit. It’s just in honor of a young lady that was going somewhere.”
What people will remember about Riley is a friendly, popular student that maintained an A average while taking honors classes. She was a peer leader and had aspirations of being an elementary school teacher one day.
She was also a pretty good athlete. Riley’s school year was built around sports. She ran cross country in the fall, played basketball in the winter and was on the track team in the spring.
“There was two, maybe three days a year that she came home after school because the sports overlapped,” her father Steve said. “She loved this school.”
Riley led Brookwood’s ninth-grade basketball team to an undefeated season and the tournament championship where she earned MVP honors. She made the varsity as a sophomore and was diagnosed with cancer during her junior season.
“We didn’t care if she scored two points or 20 points, we didn’t care, we just loved watching her play. She enjoyed it,” Barbara said.
Riley was first diagnosed with cancer in March 2009 when doctors found a rare rhabdomyosarcoma tumor on her bladder. After 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation, she appeared to have the cancer beaten earlier this year.
Her cancer fight sparked widespread fundraising and cancer education programs at the school.
However, in late March she returned to the hospital because of recurring headaches and neck pain. An MRI showed a mass on her brain and at the top of her spinal cord. Riley died on April 9.
The basketball and cross country teams will wear commemorative patches on their uniforms this season in honor of Riley.
“After Amanda’s passing, I thought this was something that would be a great honor to her and an honor for our basketball program to recognize Amanda that way,” Brookwood girls basketball coach Scott Terry said. “It serves as a great reminder to the Brookwood community that it’s not all about athletics. It’s not all about what you can do on the basketball court or football field, what’s more important is the type of person you are and that’s why Amanda was deserving of this honor.
Thursday August 19,2010
Brookwood to retire Riley’s jersey tonight
Late student to be honored at Dream event
Reporter: By Will Hammock
Email Address: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Brookwood%20to%20retire%20Riley’s%20jersey%20tonight
As she battled cancer, Amanda Riley was set to be the recipient of a room makeover, courtesy of the Atlanta Dream women’s basketball team she followed.
Unfortunately, Riley passed away in April at the tender age of 17, leaving behind a slew of grieving friends who had supported her fight with cancer. Through the Dream, she still left a lasting gift to her Brookwood High School girls basketball teammates, who saw their locker room renovated by the pro franchise.
What: Amanda Riley jersey retirement and Atlanta Dream “Take the Show on the Road” event
When: Today, 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: Brookwood High School
Tickets: Available at the gate, with proceeds to benefit a scholarship fund in Riley’s honor
“Our relationship with the Dream is really because of Amanda,” Brookwood girls basketball coach Scott Terry said.
The WNBA team brings its “Take the Show on the Road” event to the Snellville high school today, giving Terry and the Brookwood administrators the perfect chance to do something special for Riley, a beloved student who was on the basketball, cross country and track and field teams.
Riley’s No. 22 basketball jersey will be retired during the Dream showcase, making her the first Bronco male or female to have a basketball number retired.
“We’re really thrilled and honored to be able to do it,” Terry said. “It’s a wonderful thing for Amanda. Even though she was able to play varsity (basketball) just the one year, it sends a wonderful message our students, our athletes and our community. It’s not always about athletic accomplishments. How you treat others and what kind of person you are can make a big difference.”
In addition to athletics, Riley was a peer leader and her cancer fight sparked widespread fundraising and cancer education programs at Brookwood. All proceeds from tonight’s event will benefit a scholarship fund established in Riley’s name.
The Dream’s open practice at 5 p.m. kicks off today’s festivities, followed by Riley’s ceremony at about 7 p.m. The team’s players and coaches then will spend time with mingle with fans and sign autographs.
Riley’s spirit, fight exceptional in cancer battle
Posted: 8:25 PM April 14, 2010 Reporter: Wil Hammock Email Address: email@example.com
In my 13 years with the Daily Post, I can’t begin to count how many high school athletes I’ve written about. Each school year alone, that number is in the thousands. That sheer volume makes it tough for our staff to spend quality time interviewing more than a select few. But each year our paper features some of Gwinnett’s best and brightest, outgoing kids who inspire hope for the future. Amanda Riley was one of those kids — a teenager who Brookwood girls basketball coach Scott Terry called “one of the best people I’ve ever met.” I was fortunate to spend more than an hour with Riley — who passed away last Friday after a long battle with cancer — one afternoon earlier this year. For that, I’m lucky. Sure, the time together was brief, but it’s easy to see why the Brookwood junior touched so many lives. A three-sport athlete, she was loved deeply by her friends in basketball, cross country and track. She also was a peer leader, sharing the warm personality and beaming smile with anyone she encountered. I could sense those traits during our conversation in early February. She openly recapped her painful, tiring battle with cancer up to that point, then shared the joy she felt with the recent news that she was cancer-free. What hurts is that I never got to tell the story I wanted to tell, the one about her beating cancer. The unrelenting disease reappeared weeks later, forcing more medical treatments for a girl that already had endured 14 rounds of chemotherapy, 30 days of radiation and more than 20 blood transfusions when we spoke. Hopes were that the cancer would be finished off, but within the past few weeks it was discovered on her brain and at the top of her spinal cord. Cancer eventually took her life way too soon, robbing her family and friends of more time with such a special kid. She had big plans, some that she shared with me a few months ago. She wanted to go to Georgia, but she was worried about that dream because her grades had slipped slightly, not surprising since she had missed close to 80 days of school and was forced to squeeze in school work between cancer treatments. She wanted to be an elementary school teacher, one who also volunteered her free time to tutor sick children like her who were home- or hospital-bound. She enjoyed basketball, but truly loved running. She couldn’t wait to rejoin her close friends on her three high school teams. She was ready to work on the treadmill and build back the strength, showing the drive and toughness that helped her finish the state cross country race with a severely swollen ankle as a freshman. Riley also learned plenty during her struggles and was eager to share her newfound perspective with others. And she couldn’t even describe how blessed she felt by the outpouring of support she received from her school and church communities. “Just the little things you don’t realize, like (when people say) ‘I hope you’re feeling good today’ or ‘How are you feeling today?’, that made my day (to hear that),” Riley told me. “So I try to be a nicer person and I think it’s made me a better person.” Not just better. One of the best.
Beloved Brookwood student passes away
High school junior Riley waged long fight with cancer
Posted: 7:56 PM Apr 12, 2010
Reporter: By Will Hammock, Sports Editor
Email Address: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Beloved%20Brookwood%20student%20passes%20away
Monday’s post-spring break return to school was an emotional one for Brookwood High School students, who mourned the loss of one of their own, popular junior Amanda Riley.
Riley passed away Friday afternoon while most of her classmates were enjoying a week off from school. The 17-year-old had battled cancer for more than a year and her fight sparked widespread fundraising and cancer education programs at Brookwood.
As of Monday afternoon, the “R.I.P. Amanda Riley” Facebook page had nearly 3,000 fans, who paid their respects to one of the high school’s most well-liked students.
“Amanda is one of the best people I’ve ever met,” said Scott Terry, who coached Riley on Brookwood’s basketball team. “One day I hope my son is fortunate enough and blessed enough to date and marry someone like her. She was a wonderful individual. She had a beautiful smile, an outgoing personality. She was one of the those people you couldn’t help but love being around.”
Riley was first diagnosed with cancer in early March 2009, when doctors found a rare rhabdomyosarcoma tumor on her bladder. After 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation, she appeared to have the cancer beaten earlier this year. She got her driver’s license and was ready to play sports again, but most importantly be a regular teenager.
But in late March — the night before she was to receive the Joe Marelle Courage Award at the Tipoff Club of Gwinnett banquet — she returned to the hospital because of recurring headaches and neck pain. An MRI showed a mass on her brain and at the top of her spinal cord.
The news of her passing this past Friday hit her classmates hard, and Brookwood had extra counselors on hand Monday to deal with their grief.
“Anytime you have the death of a young person like Amanda, even for us as adults, it’s not right,” Terry said. “It’s not right that kids pass away before their parents and grandparents. For her teammates and friends, this is as close to death as they’ve ever been. It’s tough on them in that respect. And when it’s an individual like Amanda, who touched so many lives, it’s very tough on those who knew her. She even made an impact on people who never met her.”
Terry said his e-mail was busy Monday with letters of support for Riley’s family and friends. She made an impact on the basketball community, but also as a runner with the Broncos’ cross country and track teams. She was a state qualifier in cross country before her illness.
She also served as a peer leader, considered to be one of the leaders at her large high school.
“We’re getting by,” Terry said. “It’s been a tough few days here. (Tuesday) will probably be even tougher. But we’ll get through it.”
Funeral services for Riley are at 3 p.m. today at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Snellville.