Albany Girl Scout shows resilience, drive as member of USA ParaVolley Team

From the Fall 2019 issue of Focus

Growing up, Skye McDermott heard the word “can’t” more than most girls her age. But instead of letting her disability bring her down, this Girl Scout is showing the world what she can do.

Skye was born without her left arm below the elbow. She’s overcome more than her fair share of challenges in her 14 years, but for her, volleyball is worth the work.

Three years ago, Skye’s older sister (who shares her passion for volleyball) organized a camp to prepare middle school girls for the volleyball season as part of her Gold Award. Skye signed up for her sister’s camp, but was taken back when she was told she couldn’t play the position of setter – only hitter – due to her limb deficiency.

Not long after, Skye was taking private lessons and perfecting her own way of legally setting the ball. She joined year-round, able-bodied teams at school, the Madison Elite Volleyball Club and with summer beach leagues…gearing up for what she wanted most. Then it was time.

Earlier this year she traveled to Edmond, Oklahoma to try out for the USA’s Women’s Paralympics Beach volleyball team – the first women’s team of this type. Skye was ecstatic when she heard she made the team, and was eager to take on the challenge and break barriers.

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She and her two teammates spent the next few weeks traveling to different parts of the country for practice, and in May, she set off for the World ParaVolley Beach World Series Tour in Pingtan, China. Today, her silver medal hangs in her bedroom next to her Girl Scout vest.

“Being a Girl Scout helped me be able to make new friends and be able to express myself with different people from different countries,” Skye said. “I’m able to respect the different things about them because of some of the badges we’ve done as a troop.”

Skye has been a Girl Scout since age 5, when she joined as a Daisy. Her mother, Renee McDermott, is one of her Troop Leaders, and agrees that Girl Scouts helps gives her busy daughter a sense of routine and stability.

“Although she needs to focus to be a national champion, she also needs to have something else to do – a place where she can go outside and be with friends and just be a kid,” Renee said.

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Troop 3253 just bridged to Senior, and the members are already talking about their Gold Award projects. As Juniors, they earned their Bronze Award for designing and building two Gaga Ball Pits in their area. For her Silver Award project, Skye assembled more than 400 “Blessing Bags” for people in need, filled with hygiene items, socks, snacks, hand warmers and notes of kindness.

Along with service projects, the troop has traveled to Savannah, GA, made troop camp memories, sold thousands of boxes of cookies, and earned more badges and patches than what fits on their vests.

This fall, Skye is starting high school with skills and experiences that go beyond the typical freshman.

“Don’t give up because someone said you can’t do something. Use those words as motivation to push you even harder. You miss 100% of the opportunities you don’t take. I truly believe that is true on and off the volleyball court.”

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