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Winters Mill High School held a special event Thursday night during a basketball quadruple-header between South Carroll and Winters Mill’s junior varsity and varsity programs. While the Cavaliers and Falcons squared off in the gymnasium, a group gathered in an adjacent hallway to help promote a fundraising activity called “Rally for the Ralstons.”

Lauren Ralston, a sixth-grader at East Middle School, underwent surgery in October to remove a brain tumor. She’s recovering at Johns Hopkins Hospital while older sister Marissa, a freshman at Winters Mill, and parents Sean and Julie, receive well-wishes and support back in Westminster. On Thursday, they attended the basketball games while also selling “Love for Lauren” T-shirts and bracelets to help raise funds.

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Winters Mill’s varsity players wore their gray “Love for Lauren” T-shirts during pre-game warmups.

Robbie Green, a school counselor at West Middle, and his wife Katie were there, too ― Green’s daughter plays softball with Lauren through the Westminster Jaycees program. The Times caught up with Green to learn more about the connection between the Ralstons and the community during a trying time.

Q: What drew you to want to help the Ralston family?

A: Lauren is a player on our U12 softball team. She was recruited to play by her two good friends and as soon as we met her we knew she would be a great addition to our team. It was her first year playing and she and her family were both so excited to play and be part of our team. The players on the team were a group of girls that have been together for about 4-5 years, and they welcomed Lauren with open arms.

She has a great attitude and always tries her best and works so hard. Everything the coaches told her to do last year in practices and games, she would do. She is an amazing team player. Also, this hit very close to home with all of us from the team. We all have 11- and 12-year-old girls who love softball, and this sort of thing could have happened to any of our families.

Robbie Green, Lauren Ralston's softball coach, and friends of the Ralston family sell "Love for Lauren" T-shirts to raise funds and support for the family during basketball games at Winters Mill High School on Thursday, Jan. 2.
Robbie Green, Lauren Ralston's softball coach, and friends of the Ralston family sell "Love for Lauren" T-shirts to raise funds and support for the family during basketball games at Winters Mill High School on Thursday, Jan. 2. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Q: Who came up with the idea of T-shirts as a fundraiser?

A: The idea for the T-shirts came about after hearing different players and their families express that they wanted to support Lauren and her family. Katie bought a T-shirt this fall that supported one of her former students as he recovered from an injury, and that is where we got the idea. “Love for Lauren” just seemed fitting since everyone on our team was praying and thinking about her constantly.

Q: How has Winters Mill High School played a role in the process?

A: Winters Mill contacted us as soon as we let them know we were having a T-shirt fundraiser to benefit the Ralston Family. Marissa is on the JV basketball team and her coach and teammates contacted us about ordering shirts to wear during the benefit night for the family. Soon after, we received word that the varsity team wanted to order shirts as well to wear during warm-ups.

Marissa’s coach also told us about how supportive Marissa is of her teammates and is such a team player and cheers every one of her teammates on. She told us a story about the mile run that the team had to run for tryouts within a certain time. Marissa ran the mile within the time, but a few of her teammates who were trying out were a bit over and she offered to run it again with them and pace herself to help them make the time.

Q: How have you seen the community come together for the Ralstons?

A: Our community has been very receptive to the T-shirt fundraiser! Our softball team is like a family and when we sent out a text to our U12 Rockets softball team, the 100 shirts that we had initially ordered were almost gone because so many teammates and their families ordered. We then spread the word to her neighborhood and Lauren’s former elementary school teachers from Cranberry Station [Elementary] have reached out and given us orders.

People who don’t know Lauren or her family personally have ordered shirts or given donations for the family. The East Middle School PTO is sending out order forms to their students and staff and we are waiting the receive those orders. We just ordered another 200 shirts this past Monday, so we are hopeful to receive even more orders!

Q: Is there a lesson to be learned from your experience?

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A: The lesson that we have learned is there are always people who are willing to help. The girls on our softball team wanted to do something to help Lauren, but didn’t know how they could help, but when they wear their T-shirt, they know they are helping by showing their support for Lauren and sharing her story. In turn, people want to help by buying a shirt, attending the Rally for the Ralstons event, or donating to the “Go Fund Me” account.

NOTE: Green said another T-shirt fundraising event is scheduled for Feb. 13-14 at Winters Mill during its basketball games against Westminster. For those who want to order a shirt, contact Green at rgreen1678@gmail.com.

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