‘Pollyball’ honors soul and spiritWritten by Julie Rubini | | email@example.com
Polly Hylant-Tracy was just 35 when her body succumbed to breast cancer. Pregnant with her third daughter when she was diagnosed, she opted to delay her treatment, which included a mastectomy, chemotherapy and ultimately a bone marrow transplant in Boston, until after her youngest was born. She fought valiantly for two and a half years. Up until that final day, Polly told her siblings that she still wanted to try to fight the disease with a different treatment.
She left behind eight brothers and sisters, a husband and her three little girls. She also left behind her spirit for fun, family and simplicity.
“She kept me grounded. Polly was all about family. She loved her little girls, her husband Geof and being with all of us,” said Sandra, her younger sister.
Her family wanted to remember her in a special way, and considered many options, including a memorial bench or planting trees at a Metropark, reflecting her love for the outdoors. Sandra said one of the younger brothers, Michael, suggested they stage a volleyball tournament in her honor, as the large family often played the sport in Polly’s backyard.
“Pollyball” was born.
What began as a small fun and fundraising event at the LaJolla beach volleyball courts formerly off Reynolds Road, attracting 20 teams who paid and played on behalf of the American Cancer Society, has grown into the huge event held every August (always two Saturdays before Labor Day) at the beach volleyball courts at International Park. This past year more than 60 teams participated, both in the backyard and advanced categories, with proceeds going to the YWCA of Greater Toledo ENCOREplus Breast Cancer Awareness and Assistance program.
During the past 17 years, Pollyball has raised more than $800,000 to support breast cancer detection and awareness programs, including ACS, the YWCA as well as MCO for cancer research, The Victory Center and Reeling and Healing Inc..
As has been the case for the last two years, this year’s event, to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 22, assists greatly in funding the YWCA program that provides breast health education sessions free of charge to under-served women.
The day begins with family friend Phil Barone playing her favorite song, “White Bird,” by It’s A Beautiful Day. The magical and prophetic lyrics set the tone for this unique tribute. Phil not only spins the tunes all day at the tourney, but his family also provides food from his restaurant, Rosie’s Italian Grill.
Then the fun begins as teams assemble and are called to the various courts to compete throughout the day. The teams are co-ed, and range in age from teenagers to middle-agers. In between matches, participants enjoy beverages provided by Heidelberg Distributing Company.
Along with all the fun, there is a more serious component. Two doctors will offer complimentary breast examinations and instruct women how to conduct self-examinations.
And, every year, the Hylant family has been blessed with good weather for the event.
“We always say that we take care of everything else, but the weather is up to Polly,” Sandra laughed.
“This truly has surpassed anything we could have imagined and gives us all an opportunity to reach out and help others battle this terrible disease while having some good old fashioned fun, which was what Polly was all about,” her husband Geof said.
Polly may have physically left this world, but she can still be found in the actions and eyes of her daughters, Rachel, Lauren and Sarah, and in the hearts of her many family members and friends.
Her favorite song ends with, “White bird must fly or she will die.”
Polly Hylant died, but her soul and spirit continue to fly.
Julie Rubini is a wife and mom, the founder of Claire’s Day Inc., and a writer, with a background in sales/marketing and management.