Don’t let the cute pigtails and pink barrettes fool you. On the basketball court, number 6, Laila Burnell, has her game face on. Take it from Coach Jerald Mosley. “She’s got it, she’s very energetic, very intelligent and she loves basketball,” he said. “She’s our female Steph Curry.”
Laila’s biggest fan is her grandmother, Sheila Burnell. Burnell says she admires her granddaughters’s lively spirit, despite all she’s been through. Leila escaped a fire on Hertel Street in November by jumping out of a window. Her mother, Champagne Singleton, did not make it out.
That was Laila’s second tragedy.
Her father, John Burnell, was murdered in 2014. Sheila Burnell attributes Laila’s fortitude to her faith.
“Yes it’s a miracle, as well as a blessing,” she said. “It’s some good wonderful people, some good luck all of that bundled in one. It’s a big miracle to have her here today.”
Burnell planned a surprise birthday party for Laila. The, now, eight-year-old was joined by old and new friends. Rochester Firefighters were also on site to celebrate with her.
Laila’s tough game face on, and off, the court proves she is bouncing back from tragedy, but it’s the cute pig tails and pink barrettes that prove, not all is lost.
A joy her grandmother has fought so hard to protect.