Hawaii Island resident Laurie McGrath has been playing beach volleyball since she was a kid.
Now a senior at Hilo High School, she’s leading the team, and inspiring many others for what she does on the sand and beyond.
“I’ve kinda always played volleyball,” says McGrath. “I started playing beach when i was really little and all my uncles kind of taught me how to play beach at the yacht club 40 and we used to play every Sunday with them.”
Now a 6-foot senior from Hilo High School, she has excelled at the sport.
“Laurie McGrath is one of my favorite athletes because I’ve been a part of her journey in the last 3 or 4 years,” explains Lia Young Hunt, McGrath’s coach. “The wonderful thing about her is she exemplifies my philosophy of coaching which is be an athlete first that happens to play volleyball 100 and she is an athlete that goes out and does everything you want on the court… The sky is the limit with this kid. She’s had to overcome a lot of difficulties that life handed to her.”
At a young age, Laurie lost her mom to cancer.
“When her mom passed away and I had to think about oh my gosh I have to raise this kid I was horrified just scared and she’s the one that pulled it all together this 8 year old kid,” says Patrick McGrath, Laurie’s dad. “I’m floundering around and she’s kept us together the whole time. Laurie has been the one to pull it all and keep it together for us. Kept it together for her mom.”
“It’s a level of maturity and responsibility Laurie has shown on the court, and far beyond it.”
“I’ve been volunteering in the hospital for a couple years and I started doing it for school but I just decided to keep doing it,” says McGrath. “I’m in medical oncology so I’m seeing the people who have just been diagnosed with cancer or just gotten treatment or after treatment.”
It’s not a position that most teenagers, let alone adults would want to be in. But for her, it’s something she looks forwward to, learning from the patients and offering up what she can in return.
“I hope to give them just more of that positivity and that belief that we’re all there for them and we can get through this.”
It’s also a stepping stone to fulfilling a life-long dream, of honoring her mother.
“My goal is to become a doctor so that I can come back and help people like how I’ve said and I want be able to come back and practice medicine in my community because we have a shortage of doctors here. I just want to give back what the community has given to me.”
Her dad agrees. “You know she talked about it a lot when she was younger and I though yeah ok thats nice, a good sentiment, but when she got the opportunity to be an intern at the hospital and actually got to see what was going on and she started making a decision, Im very excited about that I’m very proud of her for that you know she’s a smart kid I think she’s gonna get that done I think… I’m really proud of her and I know mom would be just….off the charts proud of her.”