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Volleyball Community Mourns the Loss of Two Young Women

Elise Kersch, of K2 VBC, is one of two juniors-level volleyball players and beloved teammates that we have learned this week has passed away.

We learned this week that two young women — athletes, daughters, friends, and so much more — have passed. Thirteen-year-old London Bruns of Washington and 17-year-old Elise Kersch from Tennessee have tragically died too soon.

From coast-to-coast, members of the volleyball community have made it publicly known that their hearts are breaking with the families and teams that have lost London and Elise. We can all empathize with these grieving families and the people who are suffering the loss of their beautiful young daughters; we are them and they are ours.

Since their passing, the stories told of them are those of happy and beloved young women, the way they ought to be remembered. On behalf of PrepVolleyball.com, we send our deepest condolences to the family and friends who loved London and Elise.

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London was a member of the Excel NW Volleyball Club and went to View Ridge Middle School. Shared by Excel NW with permission by her parents, John Bruns and Heather Wendling, it was stated that London took her own life on September 21st after showing no signs of depression or anxiety. In fact, she was seemingly happy and was called a “bright light” in her family’s lives and a “beloved student” at school.

Despite enduring a season-ending injury last club season, London’s coaches Issac Doyle and Hillary DeVore applauded London’s commitment to the team.

The club wrote in a Facebook post, “Her smile and positive spirit on the sidelines were important to the special bond, dynamic and the ultimate success of her team. She fully embodied the meaning and spirit of the ultimate teammate.”

To honor London’s life, Excel NW is asking that people who learn about London’s story to do two things to #endthesilence about mental health. From the Facebook post, the club wrote:

“First, take the time with your own children to talk about suicide and mental health. Dig into their lives and really know what is going on. It is okay to be annoying. Be comfortable being involved in their lives and asking uncomfortable questions that may help them. Share London’s story. From the tragic loss of London, possibly someone else can be saved and helped.

“Second, London’s parents John and Heather have asked for donations to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness where a fund has been created in honor of London. This is something we can do as a community to bring resources and hopefully more awareness to those struggling with mental illness.”

Excel NW asks for donations in London’s name. London will be the face of the NAMI’s campaign, “Ending the Silence.” The club continued the following message about mental health and suicide prevention:

“In 2018, suicide was the second leading cause of death in children and young people ages 10-24. Between 2007 and 2017 suicide rates tripled in 10-14-year-olds. Our kids are living in an unprecedented time, between growing up with social media (that a lot of us did not have as kids), to the drastic isolation and having their worlds turned upside down by the pandemic. This can create a whole new set of emotions that include increased feelings of loneliness and helplessness.

“Please commit to check-ins with your children and family. Do it for London. We encourage you to seek help if you or someone you know is depressed or hurting.

“We extend our deepest condolences to London’s family, collection of friends, teammates, and coaches. Our hope in this moment is for each of you to know that we can lean on each other for strength and to grieve this tremendous loss.”

Saturday, October 10th is World Mental Health Day. For free and confidential support, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Elise Kersch attended Hardin Valley HS and played for K2 VBC in Tennessee. She passed away on the morning of Sunday, October 4th.

Elise was bound to graduate in 2021 and played as a libero/DS for her volleyball teams. As noted in her obituary, Elise was a straight-A student, had soloed an airplane, visited 21 countries, and was honored by the Technology Student Association (TSA) as she sent an experiment to the SpaceX/NASA for the International Space Station to be conducted in a zero-gravity environment.

A Celebration of Life took place on Wednesday with members of her Hardin Valley and K2 teams as honorary pallbearers with speakers memorializing Elise. A candlelight vigil was also held on Tuesday evening at Hardin Valley.

Members of the K2 VBC have set up a memorial scholarship in Elise’s name. The fund will allow at least one athlete, who otherwise could not afford to play club volleyball, to have their club expenses paid in full for the year.

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