Prayers for Kayleigh: softball player gets big surprise as team supports her fight against brain tumor

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HARTSELLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Friday night in Hartselle, hope and love won over reality for Kayleigh McClendon.

Kayleigh, 7, plays softball in Hartselle - when she's well enough. She has DIPG, a disease that affects the brain stem. It's usually swift and deadly, admits Kayleigh's mother, 'Carrow McClendon. But 'Carrow says, Kayleigh has done well in radiation, and her attitude is wonderful. Still, it's going to be a tough fight.

"For Kayleigh to get well, she has to have a miracle," she said.

The McClendons tell us they have faith in God and in His ability to heal. But they also have a community to lean on.

Kayleigh is a member of the 8U Hartselle Black All Star team, which finished second in the state this season and are headed to the World Series next week. They dedicated their performance to her and play every game for her.

On Friday, the community honored their winning teams. But they also organized a special surprise for Kayleigh.

She arrived by State Trooper chopper and was escorted onto the field in Hartselle by the Morgan County Rescue Squad. The Hartselle and Decatur communities came out, dressed in purple, to welcome her back home after radiation treatment and give her a day they hope she'll never forget.

"We want this to be as big as we can make it," said Jeaniece Slater, Kayleigh's coach.

With help from troopers, Morgan County deputies and softball teams including Hartselle High, UAH, UAB, and Auburn, Kayleigh received honor after honor at home plate. State Senator Arthur Orr even announced Kayleigh is the 2016 "State's Toughest Softball Player."

Her team then came forward and presented her with a purple trophy from their state title.

"When you see 8-year-old kids understand what's in front of them and put another child before them. And teams we've played against," said Coach Jeaniece Slater. "Every team dressed in purple. Every umpire dressed in purple. It's just overwhelming to see the support Kayleigh has."

It's a movement that's gaining momentum around the state. Kayleigh's family wants to thank the community for what they did, and continue to do.

"They've turned it into this amazing thing," said 'Carrow.

Kayleigh told WHNT News 19 the day meant a lot to her.

It's proof that the softball girls have rallied behind the McClendons in their time of need, while they know it'll get harder soon.  "I just want her to not feel left out," said teammate Chloe Maner. "We just want to win it all for her."

They'll give it a go at the World Series next week. Meanwhile, Kayleigh and her family will be on a Disney Cruise thanks to Magic Moments, a Birmingham-based organization that grants wishes for children suffering from chronic illness.

Meanwhile, the community will continue praying for Kayleigh.

"There's no other way that you look at something like this, and a diagnosis like this, and have hope if you don't have Jesus," said 'Carrow McClendon. "We know that God is able to heal her, and we are praying diligently and we have got so many friends and family that are praying with us."