The town of Mercersburg has been hit with a lot of tragedy lately.
Not long after 2-year-old Weston Rock passed away from myoepithelioma - a rare form of cancer - James Buchanan High School was rocked to the core with the death of Violet Clark, just shy of her graduation.
And not only did JB and the Rockets suffer from those two deaths, it also had two other people worth honoring, so that's just what the JB girls soccer team did with their "Hometown Heroes" warm-up shirts. In addition to remembering Clark and Weston, whose mother works at JBHS, those shirts also honor former girls soccer player Hailey Alger and young burn victim Reese Burdette, who returned home earlier this year.
"In the past year, those four people have had to fight through really big battles," JB midfielder Maddy Peck said. "Through the season, we're not having the winning ratio that we would like to see right now. That's our hard battle, but when we're going through something (as a team), we just know that someone else is going through something harder, like these four people did."
Last season, Alger was diagnosed with Pott's disease, but she pushed through, not just playing for the Rockets' soccer team but also moving on to the track & field season. She even broke the JB school record in the pole vault (9-6) during her senior season.
"She was really sick last year, but she still played every game really hard," Rocket senior Sydney Benedick said. "She would come off the field shaking, even. When she did even one event (in the track season), she would have to sleep the whole entire day the next day. It was really impressive that she was still able to play soccer with us and just fight so hard."
Not long after Clark died in a car accident, the Lady Rockets started to think about what they wanted on their warm-up shirts. The seniors were given the task.
"We had the idea that we wanted the shirt to represent something important to us," Benedick said. "We didn't want just our logo or anything; we wanted something that would be meaningful every time we put the shirt on to play. This was not long after Violet passed, so we had her in our minds, too."
The JB seniors gave their ideas to assistant coach Janet Benedick, who designed the logo. It features white and green words in the shape of a soccer ball, and all the words have a special meaning. Each "hometown hero" is mentioned with a special saying: Weston Rocks, Tough Girl Reese, Violet Shines and #2 Strong (Alger wore No. 2).
"We chose shirts because we get to wear them before every game, plus we can wear them to school so more people are seeing them," JB's Aspen Anderson said.
Peck added, "We're also going to take a shirt and give it to each of the four families, and we're going to deliver it to them personally. We want them to know how much we're honoring them."