Charlotte, NC - For Johnson C. Smith volleyball’s Gracyn Doctor, volleyball will always hold a special place in her heart. Gracyn’s mother DePayne Middleton-Doctor got her started in the game.
“It’s kind of like my relief from everything,” Gracyn said. “My teammates, they’re like my family, and the whole Johnson C. Smith family period. It just gives me a really good support system.”
The sport offered some solace to Gracyn and her sister Kaylin as they tried to move on from the senseless act of violence that took their mother’s life, along with eight others, in Charleston this June.
Gracyn play’s for JCSU, and Kaylin plays for Johnson and Wales. When the teams play on Thursday, the game will take a backseat to something much more important.
“We want to make sure that Gracyn is ok,” said Mark Raley, JCSU head coach. “In the absence of her mom, we’re going to be part, we can’t take the place of the mother, but we can make sure she’s ok.”
On Thursday the Brayboy gymnasium will transform into a sea of purple. Fans are encouraged to wear purple clothing to promote non-violence. Special guests are expected to include other family members of the Emanuel Nine.
“I think that it’s really great that they’re deciding to do that,” Gracyn said. “It’s really important to me, because it’s for us, and I hope that they see the importance and feel the love as well.”
Gracyn said she hopes people leave the game knowing that the victims’ families have become stronger as a result of that tragic day.
“We’re all using it to better ourselves, and not allow it to negatively impact our lives,” Gracyn said. “We’re trying to bring out the good from the situation and just let them know that we as families are strong.”
The night will focus on unity and peace before the first serve, but once game action begins, Gracyn said there will be plenty of opportunities for trash talk with her little sister.
“Of course there is,” Gracyn said. “I just want to let the volleyball players of Johnson and Wales know, you are stepping in Brayboy gymnasium, and it’s about to go down.”
The Purple Game of Honor will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday.