About half the student body wore their Sunday best or baby blue and white Tuesday at Orem’s Mountain View High School in honor, not of a student, but of a coach’s baby.
Head volleyball coach Jaicee Roden’s nine-month-old baby, Jay, died of a rare disease over the weekend, but students returned from their fall break in full dressed-up style, thanks to social media communication.
“The culture at Mountain View is very loving and supportive. It just started with one person on social media,” said Brynly Ward, a senior volleyball player on Roden’s team.
“We wanted to do this out of respect, to show love and appreciation to Coach and her baby. We’d tweeted out to wear baby blue and white,” said Mitzi Holland, a fellow senior volleyball player.
“Everybody was already on it. So many people dressed up today. You walk down the hallway and see so many people in church clothes,” Brynly finished.
Many of the students also wore baby blue ribbons tied to their wrists, or in their hair, thanks to Brynly and the volleyball team’s weekend raiding of family and friend’s scrap fabric piles. Students will most likely continue wearing those little tokens of support throughout the rest of the week. Many of the students will also be at baby Jay’s funeral Wednesday.
But this week’s show of solidarity is only one of many that have been happening since Roden found out her little baby was born with a rare genetic disease called trifunctional protein deficiency, which meant his body was unable to metabolize certain nutrients. He also then was diagnosed with severe heart failure and has spent most of his short life in the hospital.
Since his birth, Roden’s volleyball team, Mountain View’s student body and even others in the community have rallied around the family. The Mountain View girls volleyball team dedicated their season to baby Jay, proudly tweeting and displaying signs with the hashtag #keepfightingbabyjay. In a show of sportsmanship, the Timpanogos High School girls volleyball team presented Roden with a quilt signed by the entire Timp team at the two schools' Oct. 4 match.
“For them to come together as a team and share that with her, that showed a lot of support,” Mitzi said.
The community has rallied as well. A GoFundMe account set up over the weekend in Baby Jay’s name surpassed its $10,000 goal within just the first day, and was climbing to $15,000 Tuesday afternoon.
“There weren’t any huge contributions, just a lot of people donating like $25,” said Janet Kalaniuvalu, another Mountain View senior volleyball player.
For the Mountain View volleyball team, watching their coach endure one of life’s hardest experiences has taught them more than just standard team skills. To accommodate Roden’s need to travel daily from her home in Orem to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, the team’s practices have been at 5 a.m. each day.
“That’s been hard on us as a team, but everything has been harder for her,” Janet said. “And she’d never come back from the hospital with bad news. She was just grateful for the time she had with baby Jay. She celebrated every little thing.”
These three seniors will tell you how strict of a coach Roden is, but in the same breath, they will also share how selfless and positive their coach has been through this difficult time. Roden’s bearing has changed these girls’ own attitudes about life, and the lessons they’ve learned together as a team have helped them more off the court than on.
“We’ve learned that life is going to throw you curveballs and knock you down. But you just take it one day at a time, and keep fighting, and people will help you. She taught us that everything is going to be okay, and to keep moving forward. She’s the perfect example,” Mitzi said. “Baby Jay is known as the ‘Warrior Baby,’ but she’s been the Warrior mama.”