Lady Vol graduate Alicia Manning signs McMurray's quilt.
May 2, 2012
When 15 year-old Jessica McMurray was given the chance at a dream, she knew exactly what she wanted. Monday that dream came true.
McMurray, a resident of east Tennessee, was diagnosed with a brain tumor June 20. The malignancy was removed shortly thereafter, but nearly a year later the teen continues to undergo chemotherapy and radiation for her condition.
An orange and white quilt was crafted for the young UT fanatic during her recovery, sporting basketballs and the Tennessee logo. If only to have the Lady Vols' autographs on her quilt, Jessica dreamed.
Monday afternoon McMurray and her family received a call for which they'd been waiting. Jessica had the opportunity to meet the Lady Vols. That is, if the family could make the two-hour trek to Knoxville by 6 p.m.
Pulling up to Thompson-Boling Arena with ten minutes to spare, Jessica waited anxiously to meet members of the Tennessee squad.
Starting with the basketball offices and the trophy case, the young women made their way through the arena, stopping by the locker room and even getting the players' view of the arena from the floor.
A call was put in to McMurray's favorite player, Kamiko Williams, and Williams joined the gang for some quality time in the Lady Vol locker room.
The group stopped in Pratt Pavilion to take some shots on the practice floor. Shooting free throws with the women she admired so much, Jessica shared her goal with her new friends -to see one minute of action in her upcoming high school season.
"She was thanking us at the end," Burdick said, "But the truth was I wanted to thank her for coming. I admire Jessica's strength and courage."
With the autographs of Burdick, Manning and Williams, Jessica now has the start of a collection and the Lady Vols are working to pen all 11 players' autographs on the quilt.
"It is crazy how much of an impact you can have on others when you wear the Lady Vol uniform," Burdick reflected. "Her dream was to meet Lady Vols. And for us to have the ability to have an impact on somebody - that's just awesome."
Dream Connection, a local wish grant organization, coordinates and sponsors an average of 60 dreams a year for children from Children's and UT Hospitals. The non-profit was established in 1985 and runs solely on the efforts of volunteers and donations from the community.