March 3, 2011
As a senior playing her last game at Memorial Gym, Rebecca Silinski expected Senior Night to be emotional, but even she couldn't have prepared for what was in store for her at her final home game.
During Rebecca's freshman year at Vanderbilt, her younger sister, Kaitlyn (16), was diagnosed with Lyme disease and she has spent the last three years away from her home in Birmingham, receiving treatment in Kansas City.
Because of Kaitlyn's condition, she has not been able to see Rebecca play in person since high school.
That was until Feb. 24 when Rebecca received the surprise of her lifetime.
In the weeks leading up to Senior Night, Rebecca's family had been working behind the scenes with Vanderbilt's coaching staff and administration to make it possible for Kaitlyn to attend Senior Night. All while making sure the plan was concealed from Rebecca.
As far as Rebecca knew, it would only be her father, grandmother, aunt and youngest sister, Mikayla (10), in attendance at Senior Night. Her mother would be with Kaitlyn ... or so she had been told.
With a suite at Memorial Gym secured that would help lessen the noise and allow for the lighting to be controlled for Kaitlyn, the plan was in place for the coaching staff to reveal the surprise after the national anthem.
"After the national anthem, Coach (Vicky) Picott grabbed my jersey and said Coach (Melanie) Balcomb had something for me," Rebecca said. "All I was thinking was what on earth could she possibly have for me right now?
"The coaches stood next to me and pointed up into the stands and I didn't know what I was looking for. My dad turned the lights on in the box they were sitting in and I couldn't believe what I saw. It was unbelievable." (View the video below.)
Although Senior Night had to be delayed for a night due to inclement weather, the postponement actually worked in favor of the Silinski's.
"The night the game got postponed I went up to the hotel room to visit my dad, my grandma, my aunt and my youngest sister," Rebecca said. "The whole time my mom and sister were in the hotel room next door and I had no idea."
Rebecca had made surprise trips to Kansas City through the years and just this past December she took teammates Jence Rhoads and Angela Puleo to Birmingham as Kaitlyn returned home for the first time in three years.
Throughout the week, Rebecca had expressed to Jence and Angela how much she wished her mother and sister could attend Senior Night. It was as much of a wish as it was a test to see if any of her teammates knew anything about the Silinski's plans. They did, but they weren't about to say anything.
This surprise was Kaitlyn's and the rest of Rebecca's family who wasn't just simply returning the favor, they were making a memory that will stay with the family forever.
"I told Kaitlyn if she ever came to a game, I didn't want to know about it and I wanted to look up in the stands and be surprised to see her sitting up there," Rebecca said. "It was absolutely amazing."