On February 18 in downtown St. Louis, Janae Edmondson and her Mid TN Volleyball teammates were walking in the city when she was struck by a car that sped through an intersection. Both of Edmondson’s legs were amputated and she is recovering. The 17-year-old setter, who played for Smyrna High School, was set to go to the University of Tennessee Southern, an NAIA school located in Pulaski, Tennessee, which will honor her volleyball scholarship.
Janae Edmondson has received a flood of love and support from people she has never met.
Spurred by efforts of her club, Mid TN, and Smyrna High School, people from the volleyball community – and many other walks of life – have banded together to support the Janae and her family.
Rhonda Ross, director of Mid TN, and the club set up a GoFundMe page, gofundme.com/f/pray-for-janae, which also can be accessed through the club website (midtnvbc.com). More than $700,000 has been contributed.
Ross said most of the donations have come from the volleyball community, some even from clubs overseas who saw Janae’s story.
“When we started, I didn’t even know if we could make $100,000,” said Ross, who is helping to handle communication with the Edmondson family. “We had put on there if we could just raise $100,000 to start them off and then have another fundraiser later. I never dreamed that all the volleyball world would come together and give so much and pour their hearts into this.
“You know, we’re this little sport that competes with basketball and football … and this many people come together as one.”
The GoFundMe campaign is just one of the means by which people have rallied to support the Edmondsons. Smyrna High, where Janae was a three-sport athlete — she also played basketball and softball — also has created a fund for the family.
On the school’s home page, shs.rcschools.net, there is a QR code that can be scanned to purchase a T-shirt – in Janae’s favorite color, purple – with proceeds going to help the family. Proceeds from the purchase of bracelets made by parents also are part of Smyrna’s effort.
The school’s website has the following posted:
“An account has been set up for the family through the school. This will ensure that every dollar given will make it to the family. Money can be dropped off at the school in an envelope or mailed. Please write on the envelope ‘attention: Katy Bell re: Janae.’ Money can be mailed to Smyrna High School, Attn: Katy Bell, 100 Bulldog Drive, Smyrna, TN 37167.
“Checks should be made out to Smyrna High School, write ‘Janae Edmondson’ in the memo line.”
Bell is Smyrna’s girls volleyball coach and also a coach with Mid TN.
Non-financial support also has been ubiquitous.
Many volleyball clubs have taken to wearing purple jerseys in Janae’s honor.
“It’s touching to know the volleyball world is that tight-knit,” Ross said.
The famous St. Louis Wheel at Union Station recently lit up in purple, along with street lights throughout the city. A sign outside Smyrna High School reads “#PRAYFORNAE WE LOVE YOU.”
Ross said there also have been talks with nearby Middle Tennessee State University to arrange a gathering/prayer vigil later this month. A date is still being discussed, Ross said, to try to work around the Tennessee high school basketball championships, which are held on the Murfeesboro campus.
She also said they are exploring ways to enable Janae’s sister, Jaylah, who is away at college, and some of her closest friends to come and visit to help lift her spirits.
Beach volleyball legend Misty May-Treanor wrote a message of support to Janae that, Ross told the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Edmondsons read aloud to her in the hospital.
The Post Dispatch also reported Tom McCarthy, an agent for May-Treanor, said she plans to keep in touch with Janae and her family during the long recovery process.
And Tennessee Southern has that scholarship waiting.
“Janae will still have a role on this team,” coach Tristyn Lozano said in an email. “I tell the girls every day: No matter what your role is … you contribute however big or small it might seem.
“Sports tend to only focus on those out there physically making a ‘difference,’ but the players that aren’t are those who set the team up for success.”
For now, Janae has very little idea of the support and love being shown to her, Ross said. She and her parents have received bits and pieces of information as they continue focusing most of their energy on Janae’s physical, mental and emotional recovery.
On Monday, the club passed this along from Janae’s mom:
“We are finally back in Tennessee. She is still in the hospital healing and addressing some additional health concerns. We appreciate your continued prayers for healing. The struggles change from day to day, but it is still a step forward to be home where she can start seeing family and friends. Please keep praying for my baby.”
Janae’s parents, James and Francine Edmondson, stood before Missouri 22nd Judicial Circuit Judge Rochelle Woodiest last week and told their story, heartbreaking in so many ways, including when their daughter asked if they still loved her without legs.
Woodiest presided over a bond hearing that would determine the immediate fate of 21-year-old Daniel Riley, who is accused of hitting Janae with the car he was driving.
According to an Associated Press report, police said Riley, who did not have a valid driver’s license, sped through an intersection and collided with another car before hitting Edmondson and a parked vehicle.
The Riverfront Times reported that when the incident occurred, Riley was out on bond for a 2020 armed-robbery charge. Later, the Times report said, it was learned Riley had violated the terms of that bond on numerous occasions.
Woodiest ultimately ruled Riley would remain in custody, according to reports, and Riley is charged with second-degree assault, two counts of fourth-degree assault, armed criminal action and operating a vehicle without a valid license.
James Edmondson, according to KMOV TV in St. Louis, said he saw one of Janae’s legs was severed, and the other was partially attached. He used his military training to act quickly, using belts and blankets to affix tourniquets to both her legs.
Now, after several surgeries, Janae Edmondson is without her legs.
Amputation was the only recourse.
That prompted her to ask her parents that piercing question.
Her parents reassured her of their unconditional love.
Ross, who talks with the Edmondsons almost daily, said Janae is still in pain and will require at least one more surgery on top of the several she already has undergone. As appreciative as they are of the support, Ross said, it all is a bit overwhelming.
“Her mom tried to share some of it with her,” Ross said, “and she said, ‘Mom, I’m just not ready for that right now.’ Misty May called and wants to do a FaceTime with her, and she said, ‘I was moved, and this is pretty awesome, but I just can’t do it right now.’
“Time is the only thing that’s going to heal right now.”
Kari Miller Ortiz is one of the few who can appreciate what Janae Edmondson is going through. Ortiz lost both her legs in 1999 while on leave from the military when a car she was in was hit by a drunk driver. After her recovery, Ortiz discovered sitting volleyball and went on to win a gold medal with Team USA at the 2016 Paralympic Games.
Today she serves as director of people and culture for Move United, a non-profit that helps ensure equal opportunity in sports for those with disabilities.
“I think some of the best advice I could give (Janae) right now is something I got from my mother early after my injury,” Ortiz told Volleyball Magazine in an email. “She said it’s OK to not be OK right now. She added: Feel and experience all of your feelings truthfully.
“But I would also want her to know that, while things will be different, it is always a question of determining how to accomplish the things you want to do, not if you are capable of doing them.”
Ortiz also said she would like to be in touch with the Edmondsons when the time is appropriate.
The family is maintaining privacy for now. Sunday, in a statement released by James and Francine Edmondson through SMS Health St. Louis University Hospital, they said: “The support that has been given has allowed us to solely focus on Janae’s health and our family, which has taken a heavy weight off our shoulders during this crucial time.”
In a March 1 Facebook post, James Edmondson wrote: “I want say to everyone, that I am truly grateful for all of your prayers, support, concern, and love shown to Janae Edmondson, during this difficult time of ours, but I want everyone to know, that if I didn’t respond to everyone’s post, that showed their love for her. Please understand that your outpouring of love and concern got me to this point of her continued healing. Without all of your prayers, and concern this would have been more difficult to navigate. Thxs to all of you and may God Bless You.”
Through this ordeal, Ross wants to make sure people realize Janae Edmondson is more than just a volleyball player. She is an honor student, a violinist and, she said, the kind of student teachers look forward to having in their class.
“She’s that kid that comes in the room, and you know she’s got a mission,” Ross said. “She’s the setter, so she’s able to step on the floor and keep her cool. You never know when she’s so excited. You never know when she’s down. She’s a leader, and she does that in three sports.
“She’s not just an athlete. She has that other side of her that makes her that complete person. She’s a strong kid, and she’s got a great, strong family that’s been a tight-knit family.”
Added Lozano: “Janae is the type of person people gravitate toward. You need someone to make you laugh? Janae is your person. You need someone to listen to you when you’re going through something? Janae is your person.
“The list goes on and on. She is a person that will show up for you when you need someone. Having a quality characteristic like this makes for a great athlete and an even better person.”
Janae Edmondson faces a long recovery and not just physically. It likely will be months before she and her family can sift through the mountain of emotions.
Ross said just within the past few days has Francine Edmondson been able to look at a list Ross and others have been keeping enumerating the support the family has received. The full magnitude of what has been done – and the family’s appreciation of it – will come in time.
And when the moment comes that Janae Edmondson can grasp fully how people have rallied around her, she won’t ever have to ask again if she is loved.
“People love her just as much as we ever did,” Ross said, “if not more now.”
I’m a 67-year-old father of two daughters who both played volleyball, and I myself played, coached and currently am in my 19th year as a volleyball official. I’ll be raw and honest: I literally burst into tears when I read what happened to Janae. The tears flowed as I read the entire well-written article, but I began praying immediately for her and her family. As a follower of Jesus I know that on God can take something like this and make something good of it. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28