Employer’s tribute to teen athlete brings tears as season cut short
OPELIKA, Ala. (WSFA) - Kaitlyn “KK” Goodman only took the pitch five times in her senior season. She was looking forward to the chance at another playoff run in her final year with the Bulldogs until COVID-19 canceled school and the rest of soccer season.
“When I first got [the notification], I was excited because I thought it was just an extended summer,” said KK. “But then once I let it sink in and got to thinking about it, I realized I’m not gonna get to see my favorite teacher and get to high-five him in the hallways anymore, or get to lead my soccer team to another state playoffs. Little did I know I know that when I left for spring break that it would be my last time at Opelika High School, so it’s still kind of hard to accept as a reality.”
Seeing how hard it was for KK to miss out on the end of her senior year, her coworkers at Dick's Sporting Goods decided to help.
“I’ve known KK since she was 11 or 12 years old. My daughter, Pheobe, and KK have played soccer together for seven years now,” said Steve Darcey, the store Manager at store #702. “We were all talking about how it was bad this year that the kids were gonna get to walk, or graduate, and it didn’t look like prom was gonna happen. So I said, you know what we can do? Let me make a call and see if I can get KK’s majorette uniform and her soccer uniform and let’s take our front display window and make it an homage to KK’s senior year.”
With the plan devised, KK was then tasked with gathering her extracurricular gear.
"I remember my mom was asking me 'I need you to find your soccer jerseys and your majorette uniforms, pom-poms, boots.' And I was like, okay, I haven't seen my boots since definitely December - there's no clue where those are right now. So I was just like, okay, and was kind of aggravated because I'm like 'Man, this is gonna take forever to find.'"
She did find her boots, and with the window complete, it was time for the surprise.
KK had just finished a tanning session when her mom told her she needed to get in the car. They drove to work and got out at the front entrance. KK chatted with Steve and a few other coworkers before being directed to the side display window.
As she walked over, she saw her uniforms on display, and the tears began to flow.
"I saw it and I was just overcome with so much joy," she said. "It's just so awesome to be a part of a job that cares not only about you as an employee but cares about you as a person, and it's just really nice to have that recognition from the people I consider to be my second family."
But KK wasn't the only one emotional at the sight.
"I'm not a person that normally has a problem with words, but it was one of those speechless moments just to see the look on her face," said Steve. "To watch her just smile and wipe away the tears of joy after what has been a tough year for any senior out there was just, again, it's hard to really explain."'
The display will be in the window until May 22 when KK is set to graduate from Opelika High School. Even when it’s time to put away those uniforms for good, however, KK says the memory will always be there.
“All the seniors across the nation have had their seasons cut short, but just to have a special place that recognizes me, personally, makes me feel so special, that sense of community is just amazing.”
KK is headed to Auburn University this fall where she plans to study nursing while being on the Flag Line.
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