by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Because of a rare heart condition, Lewiston-Altura High School sophomore Joelle Hammann had to step away in past years from some of the sports she loved. Now, for her, getting up means participating in volleyball, track, figure skating and basketball once again, after receiving a new heart in fall 2019. Hammann’s teammates on the Lewiston-Altura varsity girls basketball team are now helping her mark American Heart Month and U.S. Figure Skating’s Get Up campaign by taking part in the Get Up virtual 5K.
Hammann currently is one of the managers of the team. U.S. Figure Skating also selected her as a Get Up representative this year. As a representative, she talks about her journey receiving a new heart. She brought up the idea of the team participating in the virtual 5K to support the Get Up campaign earlier this year, and her coach, Ethan Scheck, as well as her teammates, were enthusiastic about doing so.
The 5K is very meaningful and personal for Hammann because of its connection to her heart and athletics, she said. She appreciates describing her journey with her heart as part of the Get Up campaign “because they both tell good stories on how it’s very important for people to try their hardest and push themselves every single day, because you never know when it’s going to be your last moment.”
To take part in the virtual 5K, Hammann and team members, including her sister, who is on the team, will run some additional laps or drills after practice.
Scheck said he is glad the team is participating in a cause that is near and dear to Hammann, contributing to some team bonding and becoming part of a series of events like 5Ks that are tied to each one of the sports Hammann plays.
“There’s a lot of excitement with the girls and being able to participate in this and giving back to the community, giving back to that organization,” Scheck said.
During the pandemic, the virtual 5K is a way for the team to give back in a different way, Scheck said, as they typically ring bells for the Salvation Army over the holidays.
Senior and team captain Christa Sauer said she enjoys taking part in the virtual 5K as a team because working toward a goal together is fun. “It’s telling us to get up everyday and do the best we can and persevere through everything we do,” Sauer said.
Hammann’s mother, Holly Jacobs, said that, as a parent, it is meaningful to see the continued support for Hammann. “Since she’s doing so well now, this is her way of challenging them to participate while she’s healthy,” Jacobs said.
Hammann tries to give back to the team just as they are now trying to give back to her and the community. While serving as a manager, Hammann enjoys making sure players and coaches have everything they need for games and working with her fellow managers. “And watching the kids at practice is fun,” Hammann stated. “You’re able to watch them grow and develop as players.”
Hammann’s help is appreciated, Scheck said. In one instance, Hammann and her fellow managers kept everything running smoothly when a player was injured earlier this season. “She’s recording the [players’] stats at a high level of accuracy, which, as a coach, makes my job easier,” Scheck said.
Hammann helps players feel supported regardless of how a game turns out, Sauer said. “She’s always been positive and looks out for us,” she said. “She’s always there for the team.”
In addition to basketball, Hammann is involved in a number of other athletic activities. She played volleyball earlier this school year, after not playing for several years due to her heart condition. “The first game we were able to play, it was really, really exciting to be able to step out on the court again for the first time in a few years,” Hammann said.
Playing again meant playing with friends she had not played with since middle school and reveling once more in the exciting moments that come with scoring. It was a bit disappointing that the season got cut short due to the pandemic, she added.
Jacobs appreciated watching Hammann and her sister practice volleyball in their driveway all last summer in preparation for the season. “I feel she really excelled and showed her strength in the few games she did get to play,” she said.
Hammann continues to figure skate, as well. Though competitions are cancelled, the annual show is still slated to take place later this year, and she is looking forward to it. “One thing that I am excited about for the season is one of my jumps I hadn’t been able to do in such a long time because of my heart ... I’m able to do those jumps, and they’re getting bigger and better every day,” Hammann said.
Once track starts in the spring, she will add that sport to her list, too.
September 2020 marked one year since Hammann received her new heart, and she said she has not faced many complications. “I know that other people do experience some difficulties, which I have been blessed not to experience,” Hammann said. She is also thankful to have connected with her donor’s family. During the pandemic, her medical team has worked closely with her to make sure she stays healthy.