As she rebounded shots from under the basket during a youth basketball camp Saturday, Gabby Weber often smiled and laughed in the Belgrade Middle School gymnasium.
The second session of the 5th Annual Hoops For A Cause basketball camp was underway, which served as a fund raiser for Weber. The 2020 Belgrade graduate, who signed with the University of Montana Western to continue her playing career, continues to battle a rare vascular disease in her legs.
With additional medical procedures looming, the camp will help defray costs for Weber and her family. More than $12,000 had been raised as of Saturday morning, organizer Chris Mouat said.
“It means a lot to my family and I that we got the whole state of Montana really rallying behind us still,” Weber said. “We still have a long way to go with medical appointments and stuff like that, so this is a huge help.
“The endless support we keep getting just means the world to us.”
Hoops For A Cause has raised nearly $40,000 over the past four years. The camp is run by coaches and players from throughout the Frontier Conference, and Mouat noted Weber was an easy choice for this year’s fund raiser.
“We chose Gabby because she’s from our Frontier family,” Mouat, who is the head women’s basketball coach at Montana State-Northern, said. “That’s the biggest thing, she’s part of our league and we always look for a good cause related to the league. But this was somebody in our league, so it was a no brainer.”
Mouat, who was among several Frontier coaches who recruited Weber, credited his colleagues and their players for coming together for a worthy cause. He also expressed his gratitude to the local businesses that contributed to the fund raiser.
“Businesses in the Belgrade area, and really all of Montana, but Belgrade businesses have been so generous,” he said. “There’s just a ton of them that stepped up and I didn’t have time to reach out to everybody, but the ones I reached out to pretty much were all, ‘We’d love to help in what way we can.’”
Weber battled the disease in her right leg between her junior and senior year of high school, which resulted in numerous surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy. She returned for the final eight games of her senior campaign and earned all-conference honors as a point guard.
But after arriving in Dillon for her first semester at Montana Western, the disease progressed to the left leg, which required lumbar sympathectomy surgery in January.
“I got home, recovered a little bit, and then we just kind of started to find out that the surgery just didn’t work for my leg,” Weber said. “We were pretty discouraged because that’s when the pain started to spike more and more and more. So since then we’ve just been trying to manage it the best we can.”
Weber and her parents have exhausted nearly every option since then and will soon meet with a neurosurgeon to talk about spinal cord stimulator surgery. The procedure would help block the pain receptors that are constantly firing.
“For whatever reason my sympathetic nervous system is attacking itself a little bit. It’s telling me I have more pain than I do,” she said. “So we’re hoping that that stimulator kind of blocks that and we’re able to kind of manage that.”
There is no guarantee the surgery will work, so Weber would likely wear an external stimulator on her back prior having it implanted to make sure it will actually be helpful.
The effectiveness of the surgery could take up to two years, Weber said, delaying a return to basketball.
“After that, God willing, if that’s what I want to do and if I’m able and the stimulator did it’s job and we’re able to take it out, then I definitely want to be back out the court,” she said. “That’s the end goal for sure. I at least want one season back on the court in a college setting.”