In September 2017, Californian cheerleader Ashley Adamietz was gearing up for a game to encourage her high-school football side to victory. But the teen had no idea that the team had a very special message of support of their own. Unfortunately, Adamietz had received some devastating news just the month before. But the altruistic actions of the athletes that day made her feel like a winner before a ball had even been kicked.
A resident of the Northern Californian city of Redding, Adamietz attended the nearby Foothill High School in Palo Cedro. In 2017, the senior student was on the cheerleading squad for the school’s football team, known as the Cougars. The side has a very proud history which is summed up in its fight song. The lively lyrics run, “Courage, honor, spirit, skill/These we believe in/And win we will…”
With this in mind, Adamietz showed up for a September home fixture to lead the crowd in urging on the Cougars to show some courage, honor, spirit and skill on the field. However, she had received an unusual text concerning her timekeeping not long beforehand. The teen was used to turning up to her cheerleading commitments promptly, so the content of the message puzzled her.
Indeed, Adamietz later spoke to local ABC-affiliated TV station KRCR about the cellphone communication, and admitted that she had failed to read between the lines. “I got a text that said I needed to be on time,” she said. “I had no idea that the cheer team and the whole football team had kept that from me.”
Having donned her red, white and black uniform, Adamietz took her position at the end of the cheerleading line. When the players walked out in procession, carrying the team flag at their head, Adamietz began to cheer them on like the rest of her crew. However, when the players reached her position, they each took turns to deliver an overwhelming message.
Each of the burly young sportsmen, bulked out in their padded uniforms and helmets, was carrying something very special for Adamietz. All of the Cougars held a single orange rose as they processed along. As the first footballer reached the cheerleader’s position, he bent down and tenderly laid his orange-colored bud at her feet.
Initially, Adamietz seemed bemused and bewildered by the pre-kickoff action. However, her reaction soon changed to one of delight and disbelief as Cougar after Cougar laid down a bloom. Adamietz looked along the line and it appeared that every single member of the Foothill High team was going to pay her the same honor.
As the full weight of the Cougars’ gesture began to sink in for Adamietz, the teen covered her face and did her very best not to cry. “I didn’t even see the roses in their hand,” she told the local TV reporters. “At first I thought they were starting to bend over to tie a shoe, and then I saw a rose.”
In fact, no fewer than 57 Foothill High players stood in line to pay floral tribute to Adamietz. As the teen told KRCR that September, “I’m like, ‘Oh wow! This is happening’… They were going to keep on coming. I wanted to cry.” So what had motivated this mass team message, and why did Adamietz find the series of simple gestures so moving?
Well, the answer to both questions involved some terrible news that Adamietz had been coming to terms with since the previous month. Devastatingly for the spirited young sports fan and her friends and family, she had been diagnosed with cancer in early August. Specifically, Adamietz learned that she had contracted the chronic myeloid leukemia form of the dread disease.
Chronic myeloid leukemia is a condition that affects the white blood cells produced in the body’s bone marrow. And Adamietz could consider herself doubly unlucky to be diagnosed with the disease. It is highly unusual for someone of the cheerleading teenager’s age to develop this kind of cancer. As a matter of fact, it is generally detected in people preparing to collect their pensions with the average age of sufferers being 64.
These days, chronic myeloid leukemia cancer is treated with drugs which inhibit a protein-producing enzyme in white blood cells called tyrosine kinase. Advances made in the makeup of this medication since the turn of the century mercifully mean that more and more people are surviving the cancer. According to a 2006 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the survival rate for chronic myeloid leukemia after five years is an amazing 89 percent.
Such was the rarity of Adamietz’s diagnosis, it did not stay secret for long in such a small community as Redding and its surrounds. Indeed, the bad news spread as far as her high-school football team in no time, and Ryan Caetano, the Cougars’ team captain, was hit hard. Consequently, the considerate youngster decided to approach his team with the idea of doing something to show support for the loyal cheerleader.
Subsequently, Caetano was also interviewed by the reporters from KRCR. “[Adamietz]’s part of the Cougar family. So why not let her know that we’re all here for her?” he reasoned. “I wanted to let that be known to everybody – and especially to her – for what she’s going through.”
Joey Brown, Foothill High’s coach, was immensely gratified by his team’s gesture. However, he later told CBS News that he was not surprised by the motivations behind it, or indeed that it had been a Cougar who came up with the concept. Brown told the cameras, “We’ve always worked long at developing character.”
As for the tear-jerking moment itself, the coach went on to admit, “We had to check our emotions.” He explained how – as a father himself and a friend to Adamietz – the diagnosis had doubly affected him. Brown declared, “To see our players do something like that for one of our own… We were proud coaches, proud fathers and proud fans that night. Our players are learning how a simple act of kindness can really impact millions.”
Indeed, the Cougars’ kind and compassionate act certainly made its intended emotional impact, and countless online viewers got to share in the magical moment. Thankfully, as the players laid down their orange roses, someone was in place to film the whole uplifting episode. And once it was uploaded to the internet, the resulting video quickly went viral.
For her part, Adamietz was profoundly moved by the giving gesture and was particularly appreciative of the orange rose selection. It turns out that the color was the one chosen by advocates of leukemia awareness. Additionally, Adamietz claims to have re-watched the rose-laying video time and time again. This was not all that surprising – the teen was going through some severely testing times. And when enduring a serious illness, such small reminders that other people care can mean a lot.
Perhaps as a consequence of the Cougars’ efforts, a crowd-funding page was subsequently set up for Adamietz. And a considerable cash pile was amassed to provide financial support for the sick teenager and her family. But that was by no means the end of the good news. Happily, Adamietz responded well to the tyrosine-kinase inhibitors she had been prescribed.
At the end of that emotional September day, Adamietz took to Twitter with warm words for everyone involved. “I was shocked, overwhelmed and overall speechless. I can’t thank you enough [for] making me cry tears of joy. I love Foothill High School.” Now 20 years old, she has left her alma mater behind but presumably not the support of her peers. Hopefully, Adamietz has a long and happy life to look forward to – go, Ashley!