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HS Boys Volleyball

'He was a cheerleader': Cumberland Valley holding 'Jesse's Warrior Kingdom' benefit match Monday as former player Jesse King battles lymphoma

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There was always something about Jesse King that drew people to him.

It’s hard to pinpoint, but it might have had something to do with his ability to be everyone’s cheerleader — especially on the Cumberland Valley soccer and volleyball teams, and even the club teams he played on.

Sam Briggs, a former Cumberland Valley soccer and volleyball player who played with King and now attends Penn State with him, always saw King cheering others on.

King, who graduated from Cumberland Valley High School in 2019, was the one that got Briggs to try out for the volleyball team. They had known each other since middle school and played soccer together on the Eagles’ JV team in their freshman year. Over the next four years of high school volleyball, Briggs and King grew close.

“He was a cheerleader. I think that’s the best way to put it,” Briggs said. “He was always the most positive person, and since I knew him from sports and he was the captain for the volleyball team, he was the leader, he was the cheerleader, he would stop practice if we weren’t doing well and get us all together and talk to us and bring us together. It was just always positive energy from him, and I think that’s why everybody loves him so much.”

King now needs others to be his cheerleaders.

In March, King underwent a relatively simple procedure that unexpectedly became life-threatening. He was flown to Hershey Medical Center. There, doctors discovered a mass in his chest that was determined to be Diffuse Large B-Cell (non-Hodgkin’s) Lymphoma — a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. It usually grows in lymph nodes, but can also show up in other areas of your body like the skin, according to the American Cancer Society.

He is currently undergoing treatments to shrink the tumor and has started to receive good news, according to Briggs and a Facebook and GoFundMe page set up to track his progress.

“It was just utter shock,” CV volleyball head coach Terry Ranck said about learning the news. “The more I found out about the whole situation and what he went through in a short period of time was just unbelievable. I can’t fathom being as active, and as athletic and just on the run all the time just having this mass in his chest and not having any signs and symptoms until the last minute.

“The story of him going into the emergency room to have something looked at to basically having his heart stop for close to 10 minutes, and that’s just shocking. Never saw any signs or anything. It was extremely shocking, very emotional and we were just trying to see what we could do. All we could do was let his family know that we were there for him.”

Ranck got the news from Central Dauphin volleyball coach Josh Brenneman, and the news quickly spread throughout the volleyball community. From there, Carlisle head coach Drew Kalbach — who also coached King as an assistant at CV around 2015 — reached out with an idea to host a benefit match to help King and his family.

“Jesse’s Warrior Kingdom” benefit match will take place Monday when Carlisle travels to Cumberland Valley at 7. The matchup between the longtime Mid-Penn Commonwealth rivals will include multiple fundraisers, including collection bins that will be placed at the entrance of the gym, QR codes that can be scanned to donate, cookies that will be sold and T-shirts that can be purchased to help the family.

“It’s just good that we can do something to help his family out as they start this new process of going through days and hours of chemo to try and get this under control,” Ranck said.

Ranck said a group of mothers, including the family’s neighbor, Erin Quinn, took charge early on in the formation of the the benefit match.

“I think there’s going to be some tears and lots of emotions, but overall it’s going to be about the right thing,” Ranck said. “Just being there for people and helping each other out in a tough time.”

Within COVID-19 capacity restrictions currently in place, Briggs and former and current Cumberland Valley students will be in attendance Monday, including a large portion of the soccer team.

“The weekend after we heard about it — there’s a lot of Cumberland Valley kids up here at Penn State — we all got together, and we’ve been all checking up and talking about him whenever we see each other,” Briggs said.

King fulfilled every aspect of the volleyball team’s “One Team” mantra, according to Ranck. Ranck said King was an incredible teammate, always picking people up, leading by example and working hard in the gym.

“When I said cheerleader, even when the JV team was playing and we were preparing for our own game, Jesse would be the only one of us cheering for them and he’d be louder than anyone in the stands,” Briggs said. “When we would go to tournaments, whether it was clubs or for school, the other teams always knew Jesse. He was always hanging out with other kids, and I think everybody knew Jesse.

“He was a role model, and I wish I could have been like that, known so many other people and impacted so many people’s lives.”

Email Mallory Merda at mmerda@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @MalloryMerda

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