Danielle Miller was the type of person who made friends easily and people that loved her remember her “fun-loving” personality and sense of competition when it came to volleyball.
Miller died from injuries related to a car accident on March 12, 2004. She was vacationing in Florida on spring break from college. Miller was a volleyball player at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
On Saturday, June 23rd, 24 volleyball teams participated in the fourth annual Danielle Miller Memorial Volleyball Tournament. It was held at Sideout’s bar and eatery in Island Lake. The event is organized by Miller’s mother and has raised approximately $6,000 each year for the last four years for volleyball scholarships in Miller’s name.
Miller was on partial scholarship during her sophmore season. Her coach was going to award her a full scholarship when she returned from spring break.
With the proceeds from the charity tournament, Miller’s mother and father supervise a $1,000 scholarship toward graduating seniors from McHenry County that wish to pursue the “Libero” position at a Division 1 institution. They have also donated a $2,000 scholarship the last four years to the “Libero” at UNC-Charlotte.
The volleyball tour was first held July 17th 2004 at Spikes in Crystal Lake. They had 150 people. Now “well over 200 people” turn out for the memorial tournament. Registrations are typically taken off of the website and also through Sideouts, where the tournament is held.
Annual Volleyball Tournament Grows More Popular Each Year
The tournament will be held every year fourth Saturday in June. “The location can change, Sideouts has 5 courts and we fill all 5 courts. We are always on the lookout for a larger location. We do like the location they have, it is a great place but we had to turn away teams this year because we didn’t have enough room for them. But Sideouts is a beautiful location and the players love the environment,” said Degraw.
“One of the Nice things about this event is we have some very competitive teams in the pro division and so if someone is looking to play top quality competitive volleyball, they have that here. There are also recreational teams to play — so you’ve really got the best of both worlds.”
Finding players seems to be easy for the tournament, as both Degraw and her daughter are passionate players. They know many volleyball enthusiasts and people who love Danielle are always ready to come to the tournament. “Myself and my daughter also play, so we have a lot of friends that play, it is a lot of ‘word of mouth’ and also Danielle’s friends,” said Degraw. “Danielle was very popular and very active. Our community was very supportive and very tight. We are fortunate to have people around us to have helped make this very successful event.”
Registration For A Sports Event Can Be A Challenge
“The only challenging part of it is the registration process. We do offer pre registration and we offer a discount if they do sign up ahead of time. But people wait to see what the weather will be like. So there is always a delay, and this is something to look out for. We do a number of different things, but still we have to do all of the bracketing the day of and it takes forty five minutes the day of and you start a little later than you’d like to. But we also have the benefit of some coaches who do this for a living and they help out,” said Degraw. They have also had some weather trouble. But volleyball players will play in just about anything
“People play in all weather — except lightening and tornadoes. We did have some rain this year in the morning but everyone showed up. The rain stopped by noon.”
The Meaning of The Event is Clear When Meeting the Scholarship Winners
The event is very meaningful because it raises money that gives scholarship money to deserving players, just like Danielle. “I know the challenges we faced with Danielle getting a scholarship because of her size. This year I talked to two girls and one of them had the same struggles and it was amazing the similarities she had, it was extremely rewarding to hand that check off and say make it happen. Danielle must be looking down saying ‘thanks’ for not just – that her life wasn’t in vain. I know that if it were reversed, that she would be proud to recieve this,” said Degraw.
The event has had sponsors in the past. “I’m a fund-raiser by profession and I’ve been really busy, so this year I didn’t work as hard on it (obtaining sponsors). Sponsorships will go on the T-shirt and they will also have tables. One lady had vitamin therapy. There is sponsorship available for T-shirt logos and also we have had bag sponsors where people could donate toothbrushes. Taco Bell gave us coupons, and these would be in the registration bag that people would get for free,” said Degraw. Degraw works for an organization that helps homeless men and children.
The event is so popular that people have asked if Degraw would consider doing another event. “I have been asked about doing an indoor tournament in the fall, that is something I might consider for the future.”
Taking a Moment to Honor a Special Girl with a Tremendous Spirit
“The most rewarding thing about the tournament is seeing everyone show up in support of the event. The most fun is providing the scholarship checks to the participants. The atmosphere is light, there is a lot of music playing, there is food and socialization and it is a lot of fun,” said Degraw. To honor Danielle in a special way at noon everything stops and they toast her. Those 21 and over can have an alcholic beverage and the under 21s can have a water or a soft drink.