In the afterglow of their national championship win in Denver earlier this year, the Baylor Lady Bears were thinking about more than unfinished business.
They knew the celebration would not be complete without their most inspirational teammate alongside them -- an 11-year-old girl named Haley. So they climbed into the stands and got her.
"It's big for Haley because she doesn't get to participate in sports," says her father, Greg. "She always has to watch other kids do things that she can't do."
Haley Klepper has perplexed medical experts nationwide as she has experienced an unexplained and progressive decrease in mobility and hearing. They remain unable to determine the scope of the disease, or how to treat the mysterious condition of a little girl who was healthy until age five.
"She is very strong and very determined," her mother, Brenda, says. "She never cries over this."
Longtime Baylor supporters, the Kleppers' story came to the attention of Lady Bears head coach Kim Mulkey.
"As a parent, you want to fix things for your children," Mulkey says. "Yet here's a family dealing with something that can't be diagnosed. I wanted them to know that we cared and wanted Haley to be a part of the team."
Haley and older sister Hannah, who proudly chauffeurs Haley's stroller around the Ferrell Center, were given their own locker and spent time with the players during practices and before games.
"Haley was thrilled," Brenda recalls. "It's a very special feeling. She just kept saying, 'Oh my goodness, I'm part of a team.'"
Haley's impact on her teammates throughout the year was so strong that, shortly after reaching the pinnacle of their perfect season, the Lady Bears were thinking about her.
"When they came and pulled her out of the stands, she was like, 'Am I really getting to go down there?'" Brenda says. "Of course, Hannah got to go, too. That made Haley's night."
"I thought it was very special," Mulkey remembers. "An unselfishness you can't describe. They wanted to share that championship with those two little girls."
"And she came back and told everybody," Greg says, smiling. "She is a Lady Bear for life."