By Billy Rooney
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
There is no bandage large enough to cover the heartache of losing a parent, especially at a young age.
For junior, Hayley Harvey, the support and comfort from her K-State Rowing family was tremendous.
Harvey’s mother, Karen, passed away after a long battle with breast cancer on October 11, 2012. Karen had first been diagnosed with breast cancer when Hayley was five years old. After going into remission she remained cancer free until she had a relapse when Hayley was a freshman in high school. After numerous radiation treatments, she was in remission yet again. Unfortunately there was one last relapse, when Hayley was a freshman in college, which would eventually lead to Karen’s passing last October.
The subsequent support she received from her teammates has been uplifting and inspirational.
Teammates were more than willing to make the trip to Quinter, Kan., a small town with a population just over 900, for memorial service held for Karen Harvey.
“We had a memorial service that was held at the Quinter High School Gymnasium, because that was really the only place big enough to hold all of the people that came,” Harvey said. “Several of the girls on the team drove the three hours from Manhattan to Quinter to show their support.”
The support wasn’t limited to the memorial service though. This spring season everyone on the team has chosen to where pink bracelets for every rowing competition that reads, “She’s Somebody’s Hero, In Honor of Karen Harvey.”
“During races, when our coxswain is calling out strokes for people in the boat, they will give strokes ‘for Momma Harvey’,” Harvey explains, “as another way to remember Mom during a race.”
Harvey’s own personal way of remembering her mother is by wearing a pink breast cancer ribbon in her hair during every race, as well as frequently wearing pink in her everyday wardrobe.
Harvey, who is now in her third season as a member of the team, says that she missed a few weeks of school, as well as one of the races in the fall, while she was home spending time with her mother in her last days.
Head coach Patrick Sweeney and assistant coach Stephanie VanMatre have been extremely proud of how the team has supported her both emotionally and as teammates.
“I remember the summer that she informed us that her mother had another relapse,” says VanMatre. “Our girls did a great job of backing and supporting her, but Hayley’s strong will was what got her through most of that difficult time.”
Given the unique nature of how most of the team become rowers after playing other sports and with little to no experience in rowing whatsoever, it has created a unique bond that few other sports really have. Nearly everyone literally starts from the bottom learning how to better themselves at the craft, enabling teamwork and pushing aside egos. If the rowers in the boat don’t work as a unit, the boat can’t move fast. That teamwork has carried over outside the boat as well for the Wildcats.
“Everyone supported her in their own way, as well as a team. But this is a pretty close team anyway, so this wasn’t an overwhelming situation,” explains Sweeney. “I can’t say there was a Hollywood motion picture to be made of this, simply everybody was just there for her all the way through and we will continue to do that.”
Whether it be something as subtle as a wristband or the team collectively calling out in remembrance of her mother in the middle of a race, Hayley says the support has been a vital part of living without her mother.