Tim Toy is the 2022 Sports Imports/AVCA Courage Award Winner

We Serve First Foundation Co-Founder
courage award we serve first volleyball

Sports Imports is honored to present Tim Toy, the Co-Founder of the We Serve First, A Volleyball Foundation the 2022 Sports Imports/AVCA Courage Award at the AVCA Volleyball Convention in Omaha, Nebraska. Tim Toy has helped to make an incredible impact in the Pittsburgh volleyball community through his efforts to help grow the game of indoor and outdoor volleyball. Tim and his wife Ellen, who was a volleyball coach for over 30 years, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. Six years after her diagnosis, and towards the end of her long journey with cancer, Ellen and Tim founded the We Serve First, A Volleyball Foundation to allow more athletes to play the sport Ellen dedicated her life to – volleyball.

We Serve First was founded in 2015, as Tim’s wife Ellen’s six year cancer journey was coming to an end. Ellen was a volleyball coach in Western PA for over 30 years, and in that time she impacted so many athletes in a positive way. She taught them the skills required to play volleyball, and also taught them life lessons through the sport of volleyball. Ellen was an educator at heart, so this was natural for her. Knowing her time was running short back then, she wanted to establish something that would help kids with financial difficulties start or continue their club volleyball careers. She was the heart and soul of volleyball in the Kiski Valley, and her story has reached many throughout the country.

Each season the foundation sponsors athletes for the club season who otherwise would not have the means to play, and hosts their annual fundraiser “Pack the Park.” Recently, Tim and We Serve First built an outdoor grass court for the community and donated volleyball training equipment to several programs in the Pittsburgh area. Tim also helped host the We Serve First All-Star Classic and invited top-level club volleyball players from around Pennsylvania.

volleyball courage award

When asked how We Serve First has impacted his life and others, Tim shared,

“Well, I’m not sure it was accidental, or it was her plan from the beginning, but WSF has allowed me to remain active in the volleyball community, keeping me too busy to stay down, when down seemed like the right direction. Meeting coaches and athletes, talking about the game, sharing her story. I see her in the eyes of the young women we have been fortunate to assist. Their enthusiasm and love of life and volleyball keep Ellen alive in a small way. All of our athletes have worked hard with the opportunity they have been given, and some of them have even earned scholarships. Either way, the goal is to keep kids on the court despite financial hardships. I’ll say that has had a lasting impact on me too. It just feels good to help.”

Through the heartache, and ups and downs, Tim has managed to be an inspiration to others and has shown a drive to help grow the sport of volleyball. We asked Tim to share advice for people facing similar challenges in their lives, and he said:

I think the thing I keep coming back to is the lesson volleyball teaches the best. Play it a point at a time. Take stock in what went well, correct what errors you made and move to the next point. Our story contains so much heartache, so much loss. Ellen showed us how to keep getting up. She faced cancer three times and each time she responded to it by living her best life. During the time she battled cancer, we lost an amazing Assistant Coach, Jaime Vick-Moran, and a beautiful young athlete named Jenna Prusia. These losses, combined with her own difficult diagnosis would have floored the most hearty among us. She knew she was responsible for keeping the team she coached focused and upbeat. She stood in front of team meetings and delivered the worst news with courage and dignity and helped the kids believe that better days were ahead. She will be remembered as much for the way she delivered hugs to those who needed them as she will be for any skill she might have taught, and she taught those well too. Ellen Toy was a once in a lifetime gift to all who knew her, and the best example of resilience that I will ever see. Her advice would very simply be “play the next point”.

To learn how you can support the We Serve First Volleyball Foundation visit the We Serve First website. To learn more about Tim and We Serve First, visit our Q & A blog and learn about his inspirational journey and the impact he has been making on the volleyball community.

We also invite you to follow Tim on social media at @jamthegym to help support his drive to help others find the sport of volleyball.

courage award we serve first volleyball