Leukemia Patient Inspires UTD Team

A volleyball game was held in honor of leukemia patient Kaitlyn Johnson (left). Photo Courtesy of Douglas Fejer


Volleyball players honor child during fundraiser for pediatric cancer

The Comets volleyball team honored nine-year old leukemia patient Kaitlyn Renee Johnson with their third straight sweep at the fifth annual Gold Game against LeTourneau.

Johnson has been with the team since the fall of 2015, when the first Gold Game was played in September, which is childhood cancer awareness month. The game served as a fundraising event to help those with childhood cancer. Volleyball head coach Marci Allison said adding Johnson to the roster helps keep the game in perspective.

“Over these five years we’ve just kind of tried to figure out ways to incorporate her more and include her more and share her story with our players, not only that were there then but (that) have come along since we have had Kaitlyn with us,” Allison said.

Between sets, Johnson and her fellow Royce City Bulldog cheerleaders performed their routines for the roaring audience of 545 guests, the largest for a home game this season. 

For their part, the Comets landed 49 kills to LeTourneau’s 24. Leading the Comets in kills was freshman outside hitter Catherine Croft with 12 kills and one ace. The Comets finished the game 25-17, 25-17 and 25-16. Since 2015, the Gold Game has grown in number and in support, Allison said.

Kaitlyn’s father, James Johnson, said that having her at the Gold Game helps to promote awareness and brings the issue of childhood cancer close to home. The team has also been supportive of Kaitlyn, Johnson said.

“There was a time when Kaitlyn got pretty sick one day and several of the girls showed up and — even including their dog — came (to) hang out with Kaitlyn for a little while just to provide emotional support to her while she was in a time of need,” Johnson said.

“She looks at all the girls like big sisters … she gets to cheer on somebody she knows … she gets to watch her group,” Johnson said. “She looks at most of them like big sisters and to see her light up when they get to spend their girl-time together really is meaningful to us.”

Allison said it’s fun to watch the excitement of Kaitlyn and her cheer team when they perform. It feels different to play for something bigger than yourself, Allison said.

“The first year, watching Kaitlyn realize she was a part of something you could just see that she glowed,” Johnson said. “I guess kind of that moment she realized she really was a part of the group.”

Johnson said he and his wife have big dreams for Kaitlyn. They both hope she goes to college and Kaitlyn, Johnson said, said she wants to go to UTD.

“The love and compassion that the team and the whole athletic department has shared with Kaitlyn and even others through our passing truly is overwhelming,” Johnson said. “Our outcome medically has been great, but emotionally has been impacted positively by this experience.”


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