Basketball & Bluegrass benefit to help Unicoi County player and coach on the mend

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Feb 14, 2018 at 9:07 PM

Unicoi County Middle School, Love Chapel Elementary School, the Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band and friends are teaming up for a Basketball & Bluegrass benefit to help the families of a young player and volunteer coach on the comeback.

Thirteen-year-old Julie Hensley, who plays for the middle school’s girls basketball team, underwent surgery for curvature of the spine in December and is now undergoing rehab in Atlanta and is traveling back and forth with her mom and dad for weekends at home in Erwin.

Event organizer Holly Blankenship said Julie is an amazing player who never let her condition slow her down, even though her scoliosis was so severe her spine was S-shaped and the surgery added about four inches to her height.

While a complication from the procedure has required Julie and her family to stay in Atlanta for rehabilitation, the good news is that she is on the road to recovery. And Holly said, “She is one of the toughest kids I know.”

Also on the mend after major surgery, Travis Bowling is the father of three Unicoi Elementary School students and a volunteer coach and helper for all his kids’ teams.

Travis recently suffered a collapsed lung. And while it was an emergency he had been through before, this time it required an operation to reinforce his lung wall. That operation has put him out of work for several months of recovery.

To help both Julie’s and Travis’ families with expenses through their recoveries, Holly and some other caring Unicoi County basketball parents put their heads together.

What they came up was a two-day basketball tournament open to up to 20 boys and girls teams in divisions stretching from grades 3-8. The tournament will be topped off by a concert by the high school’s impressive young bluegrass musicians.

The tournament will be be played at the neighboring middle and elementary schools on Mohawk Drive in Erwin from 5-9 p.m Friday night, Feb. 23, and 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb 24. The concert will start at 7 p.m. on Saturday on the stage in the Love Chapel gymnasium.

Eight teams have signed up so far, others have expressed interest but not yet confirmed their entry, and Holly is reaching out to more school and traveling teams in hopes of filling all tournament brackets to enhance the competition and add to what help the tournament will provide Julie’s and Travis’ families.

The team registration is $75 and can be completed online at /www.tourneymachine.com/E41367, by email to hollyblankenship@me.com or by contacting Holly for assistance at 423-330-4654.

Admission to the tournament is $5 for Friday night, and $10 for all of Saturday’s games and the concert. Concessions will be available for purchase. Orders will be taken for event T-shirts with the Bluegrass & Basketball logo on the front and “Julie Strong” on the back. And all proceeds will go to the families.

Holly encouraged everyone to “come out and enjoy some great games, wonderful athletes and amazing music all by your local kids and families and all to benefit somebody in our community.”

If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at 423-722-0538 or P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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