GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - On Feb. 25 the No. 13/11 Green Bay (32-1) women's basketball team was introduced to seven-year-old Amelia Gorton, a cancer survivor diagnosed with leukemia just two days after her second birthday. Throughout two-and-a-half years of going through 155 various treatments, Amelia is not only a happy seven-year-old who likes the color blue, she's also an inspiration to the Phoenix.
"She shows us that there are things a lot bigger than basketball and we're not just here to play," said Hannah Quilling (Eau Claire, Wis.). "We can use basketball as a tool to inspire others like Amelia has inspired us."
At the practice prior to Green Bay's final regular-season home game, which was also the annual PinkZone game, Amelia and her mom Mary came to practice to meet the team for the first time. Mary shared her daughter's story with the team and with tear-filled eyes, the players held onto the long strands of what Mary and Amelia call "Bravery Beads". For each treatment Amelia endured in her long two-and-a-half year battle, she received a bravery bead.
"She has an amazing story and showed amazing strength in everything she's been through and still came out with a smile," said Quilling.
Amelia sat on the bench with the team during its PinkZone game against Butler on Feb. 26 and immediately became a huge Phoenix basketball fan as the team became a fan of Amelia in return.
Following the game against Butler, Amelia told her mom the team won "because they were brave," and that she wanted to share her beads with them.
Amelia visited the team before it began Horizon League Tournament play and gave each player a bravery bead to wear on their shoe.
"It's a constant reminder that situations do get tough and it's about how you handle them and the person you'll be when you come out of them," Quilling said.
Amelia and her family will be making the trip to Wichita, Kan., to cheer on the Phoenix in Sunday's first round game against UALR (23-7) at 4:20 p.m. on ESPN2, but before leaving Green Bay, Amelia sent the team off with a special care package that contained the following:
PUZZLE PIECE - because you are an important part of the team.
RUBBERBAND - to be flexible.
STICK OF GUM - stick with it.
HAPPY FACE STICKER - to smile.
MINT - keep cool under pressure.
PENNY - give you the sense to pick your battles.
PAPER CLIP - to keep it together.
ERASER - we all make mistakes.
LOLLIPOP - because you're so sweet.
STARBURST - to give you a burst of energy.
HUGS & KISSES - Love, Amelia.
Every player knows its journey in the NCAA Tournament will not be easy, but when there are struggles, they can take one look down at their shoe and be brave.
To view a photo gallery of Amelia's most recent visit with the team, click here.