Dawn Staley tells the inspiring story behind the necklace she’s worn since June

As her team begins their quest for a national championship, South Carolina women’s hoops coach Dawn Staley makes sure to keep a reminder around her neck of what other people may be going through.

During a spot on SportsCenter Saturday morning, Staley was asked about a certain necklace she wears and took a few minutes to reflect on the powerful story behind it.

“I do have a partnership with Aflac and Aflac has taken me on the road to some incredible places.

They took me back to UVA Children’s Hospital where I got the chance to meet a young lady named Blakely who was going through cancer treatments,” shared Staley.


“And Aflac has these special ducks that, when a child cannot express how they are feeling because of their treatment, they utilize these mood ducks that will give the doctors a view of what the child is feeling if they can’t verbalize it,” she continued.

Staley explained that she was partnered up with a special little girl named Blakely, who made a necklace for the Gamecock head coach last summer.

“They took them through a scavenger hunt, and at the end, they were presented with their ducks.

They were able to, at the very end, make necklaces for their ducks. So I sat with a young lady named Blakely — I’ll never forget her name — and I just used her color scheme that she was using for her necklace, for her duck.”

And Staley has worn the necklace on the South Carolina sideline all season long, noting that it’s a reminder of the larger troubles most people face beyond the basketball court.

“It gives me perspective. I mean, what we do is coach this game or play this game, when so many other people are going through much deeper things than us, and they have a much better outlook on it.

Blakely, you would have never known what she was going through.

“But I know what she’s going through, what her family is going through, and I just feel forever indebted that they allowed me a small part of their life, which changed my life. I’m going to wear this until the beads fall off.”

Dawn Staley tells the inspiring story behind the necklace she's worn since  June - On3

Then came a surprise, as Blakely herself joined SportsCenter to let Coach Staley know that she had made her another necklace ahead of the Gamecocks’ big second-round NCAA Tournament game.

“Hey Coach Staley, I made you another necklace, I hope you like it. Good luck on your game,” said the child to a heart-warmed Dawn Staley, who was handed the necklace and immediately put it on.

Quite a sweet moment there between Staley and little Blakely.

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