South Walton's Hiers proves examplary

SOUTH WALTON, Fla (WJHG/WECP) - Last Friday, South Walton senior volleyball player Maddie Hiers was given a surprise she'll never forget.

"I saw everyone walk in, and my friend Emma looked at me and was like trust me it's fine," Maddie Hiers, South Walton senior said.

Members of the All Sports Association, the Taylor Haugen Foundation, the Hiers, and a woman holding a big bronze eagle trophy filed in to give Maddie the Taylor Haugen Trophy.

A trophy that's given annually to a local senior in memory of former Niceville football's Taylor Haugen who passed in 2008 after a fatal liver injury during a game.

"I think it was cooler to win this award because it wasn't something that I could work for, and fill out an application and make myself sound better than anyone else that applied for it," Hiers said. "It was something that the people around me took notice to."

"It's spectacular," Phil Tisa, South Walton Athletic Director/football coach said. "She is definitely a deserving recipient. I'm excited for Maddie, and I'm also excited for the school because I believe we have great kids and Maddie."

"I mean, it's just simply a huge honor," Jerry Hiers, Maddie's father said. "Just being in that family for the rest of her life, and our lives."

A senior is not only chosen for athletic and academic ability, but for his or her leadership and faith, embodying Taylor's motto: "Don't quit. Never give up."

"Maddie really just stood out in her wonderful essay in regards to the struggles that she's been through with her family and the illnesses that they've been able to overcome," Brian Haugen, Taylor Haugen's father/Foundation Vice President said. "Her strength of character and faith, just a wonderful person."

As part of her application process, Maddie wrote an essay about her family's battle with cancer. Her mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and has been in remision for the past 18 months. Less than a year later, her dad was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer and is currently undergoing treatment.

But just as Taylor always said, "Don't quit. Never give up."

"It's been a real struggle for our family, and I always said from the beginning of getting cancer that I wanted everything to glorify God," Beth Hiers, Maddie's mother said. "And I told the Haugens that this really was just the continuing snowball of how much it has done and showing everyone how you can get through adversity through your faith."

Hiers says this award, and the scholarship money given in the memory of Taylor, will help her when she attends Florida State University next year.