Coming together for the Ponders


When she’s on the field, Abby Ponder just gets to enjoy one of her two sports at RVC. Aside from basketball, the game of softball has given her mind a place to relax, with a team that’s always there for her – especially in tough times.

This past March, Abby’s parents drove out to Clermont, Florida for the team’s spring break trip. Fighting through what the family thought was just a cold and a pulled groin, Joe Ponder and his wife Kim were determined to see their daughter play.

Until things got really bad.

“I just got a phone call and it was like ‘You need to leave now. You need to come to the hospital. Your dad’s in the ICU,'” Ponder said.

Joe was diagnosed with pneumonia, influenza A and a staph infection, rooted from a foot abscess. Abby knew her dad was sick, but never imagined it’d be this bad.

“I just started bawling,” Ponder said. “My team had no idea what was going on. They had no idea that it even had to do with my dad, but the fact that I walked up to Monroe, I was crying, I was just like, ‘Hey, my dad…’ He said, ‘Don’t need to explain. Just go.'”

“[It was] heartbreaking,” RVC’s head softball coach Darin Monroe said. “The thing about these girls is, not just Abby Ponder, but every single one of those girls that take the field for you, they become your daughters. They become your family.”

Joe’s condition got so bad, doctors didn’t know if he would make it through the night.

“Everyday I would just say ‘Okay, if he makes it through today, tomorrow’s going to be better. He’s going to be doing even better tomorrow,'” Ponder said. “Where he’d fall back on maybe his blood pressure, he’d improve on his oxygen levels, so I would hold on to the good and try not to focus on the bad.”

“I know a lot of us were messaging her, texting her letting her know that we were all there for her,” RVC freshman Breanna Collins recalled.

Abby’s support from her team felt overwhelming already, but what came next, was something that never even crossed her mind.

To help cover medical, travel and other costs to come back home, the RVC softball team decided to set up a GoFundMe page with a goal of $5,000. In less than three weeks, the page has already reached more than $4,000.

“My mom and I, my dad just didn’t know how to react,” Ponder admitted. “We’ve never had such a mass amount of people care so much.”

The donations haven’t just been coming from the local Rockford community either. Even Herkimer College, the same school RVC’s beaten in past national championships, has donated.

“Their main focus while they’re there should not be on the financial burdens that this is potentially going to have on them,” Monroe said. “Their main focus should be on getting their dad better.”

Joe is doing a lot better. The money raised has already helped him and his wife book a flight back home to Rockford in May. While the road to recovery is far from finished, Abby says it’ll be nice to finally have them back home.
“It’s been hard,” Ponder said. “We played Elgin [Community College] the other day and I hit my first college home run and my parents weren’t there to see it. I kind of went to the dug out *sends kiss* and I was like, ‘I love you guys. Sorry you didn’t see it.'”

If you’d like to donate to help out the Ponder Family, visit

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