BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — April is Autism Awareness month. Virginia Tech women’s basketball player Elizabeth Kitley is inspired every time she steps on the court by someone who’s just a little bit different. Liz and her sister Raven’s special bond goes far beyond the hardwood.
There’s no question who Elizabeth Kitley’s number one fan is. “She just fits right in like a part of the puzzle. She’s genuinely a member of this program of this community, she loves it here. Like every time she comes on campus, she says oh it’s good to be home,” said Eizabeth.
Raven Kitley is Liz’s older half-sister and has a played a big role in the Virginia Tech center’s career. “She’s always been my best friend and shes definitely had input in all the decisions I’ve made over the years… She keeps me straight but that’s kinda what I need sometimes,” said Elizabeth. Raven’s brutal honesty led Liz to Blacksburg.
“Yeah I mean definitely, I think Coach Brooks and his staff went about the best way to recruit me because they definitely went after Raven just as much if not more than they went after me…If I didn’t go here, she would’ve been very sad. because she had a close bond with them and I know how much they cared about her so that made me want to come here too,” said Elizabeth.
Through the highs and lows of Liz’s time as a Hokie, Raven’s been the foundation of her support. “I’ll have a bad game every now and then of course and she’ll be the first one to come and comfort me and say ‘it’s okay sissy, you’ll have another one, she just has a good positive outlook, she doesn’t get hung up on things or get too focused on a loss,” said Elizabeth.
Liz admits she tends to be the shy one on the roster, but she’s been vocal about supporting and including people like Raven — people who have Autism… wanting others to see them the same way she sees Raven. “I think just making them feel comfortable and not like they’re the odd one out because they’re people just like us, they have feelings just like us. They may not express them the same way but we all have a heart. A beating heart,” said Elizabeth.
Liz is reframing the conversation about Autism. She hopes for a world that is more accepting of people like Raven. “Something she likes to say is that it’s not necessarily a disability but just a different ability. They’re very capable people. Raven’s very capable, very smart, too smart sometimes. Her memory is too good. But she’s just able in a different way,” said Elizabeth. For Liz Kitley, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Virginia Tech has already taken steps to be more inclusive of those with Autism. Back in December, the Hokies women’s basketball team hosted an Autism Awareness game. They honored raven in a pregame ceremony. Proof of her special connection with the team.