HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Mills Godwin Eagles and Glen Allen Jaguars girls volleyball teams were met with a sea of green at Godwin High School Thursday night, all in support of organ donors and their coach, Chris Wakefield, who is battling a critical illness.
For 10 seasons, Wakefield has led the girls volleyball team at Mills Godwin. The team celebrated its 200th win under his watch on Oct. 5.
“Honestly, it’s been the players,” he said. “We preach a lot about the culture that we build here. But it honestly wouldn’t be anything without the players.”
That culture is exactly what senior parent Jill Taylor said makes the team like a family.
“Right from the start, he has had a solid really sort of way that he teaches all of them, and it’s about culture,” she said. “It’s not just about the skills on the court, although he’s pretty sharp about that.”
That’s why the Henrico County community has rallied around Coach Wakefield as he battles advanced-stage kidney failure.
“It’s heartwarming for sure,” he told 8News before the varsity volleyball game. “I can’t speak on it enough because it kind of takes the words out of my mouth. I’m a person that talks a lot, but I don’t have words for this moment.”
For the Eagles-Jaguars matchup, and in support of Wakefield, the Henrico County community wore green, the color of support for organ donors. “Team Wakefield” and “Kidney 4 Coach” signs adorned the hallways and gymnasium.
Wakefield has been battling polycystic kidney disease for more than 20 years. But recently, Taylor said that it has gotten worse. The disease has now evolved into advanced-stage kidney failure, requiring Wakefield to either get a transplant or begin dialysis treatment.
“The understanding was always if coach needed a break or to do anything, that he had an underlying condition. He pretty much never needed a break. He’s relentless in his focus on the court,” Taylor said. “In the last year or two, he’s, maybe, needed to be a little bit more verbal about it. So we’ve been listening. And then, recently, earlier this year, he went ahead and said, ‘Okay, I’m going to be heading in the direction of kidney transplant,’ and that’s when it kind of got serious.”
Wakefield told 8News that his mother is a transplant survivor.
Right now, he is waiting for a donor match. If he is unable to find a match, his kidneys will fail, and he will turn to dialysis treatment.
“I got into the transplant list in September,” Wakefield said. “Once you’re approved, you are pretty much in a waiting game.”
The Mills Godwin community is trying to make sure it doesn’t come to that.
At Thursday night’s game, there was a donation box, raffles and information about signing up to become an organ donor and a possible match for Wakefield.
“One of the things I’ve learned about in this process is that a community is willing to help no matter what,” Wakefield said. “I was very fearful about asking for help with the unknown of what would happen, and it’s put a huge smile on my face because of the amount of support that I’ve gotten from people who want to help.”
Those interested in donating a kidney for Wakefield can click here.
Additional inquiries can be submitted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested donors do not necessarily have to have blood type O. Donors could match with others in need of a transplant and end up helping those outside the Henrico County community.
“If it was someone in one of our families that needed the kidney, he’d be leading the charge,” Taylor said. “He leads the charge for the girls in everything else.”