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Smith shows toughness on and off the court

By Vince Bagby, Sports Director, vbagby@keci.com
Published On: Jan 30 2013 09:45:50 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 30 2013 09:57:53 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Anyone who has caught a Lady Griz game knows that Alyssa Smith is a tough girl on the court...but what they might not know is how tough her life has been off the court.

When she was only 23 months old, Smith had a terrible accident at daycare. Her hands were exposed to 140 degree water, she needed surgery and was in the hospital for two weeks... but the scars always remained.

"You know I felt like the only different person in school,” said Smith of her younger years. “I guess I was just kind of embarrassed of them. And you know little kids can be really mean. I'd often cover my hands and I would never want to bring attention to them."

It was when she was 7 years old that Smith first encountered camp Eyabsut, a regional camp in Washington dedicated to helping kids who had suffered burn injuries.

"My experience as a camper was so powerful and so awesome that I could not wait to be one of them one day,” said Smith of her camp counselors.

Smith has been heavily involved at camp Eyabsut now for 15 years. She goes back every summer as a counselor to help kids who had to experience what she did when she was young.  She says it was only the natural choice:

"It's cool when you hear campers say that they used to struggle with their scars, and they struggle with their appearance and stuff but now because of camp they're glad that it happened cause they have this place to go to every summer."

This weekend against Eastern Washington Smith has taken it even a step farther; she's organized a fund raising effort with all proceeds going towards camp Eyabsut.

Donations will be taken at the entrance of Dahlberg arena, there is a Lady Griz bake sale and they're even selling 200 t-shirts.

"She gives a lot to others is one of her great qualities,” said Smith’s head coach Robin Selvig.  “That's probably the best example of it. She's a great kid and it's a great fundraiser for an extremely worthy cause."

"I'd hate to say that i burned my hands for a reason but I think that it truly did happen for a reason and really great things have happened and it's really not about me at all,” says Smith.  “It's about these kids who come to camp every year, it's about providing for them a place to be and it's a place a little more like them."