Class: 2022 | Category: Courage | Alma Mater: Norwin, 2021 | Sport: Soccer
Willig was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at two weeks old, but the genetic disease didn’t keep her from playing soccer in high school or now in college. It did, however, require her to adopt a strenuous daily routine that started before sunrise. Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening illness that causes mucus to build up in the lungs and can affect other organs and the digestive system. Each morning, the 2021 Norwin graduate would wear a vibrating vest, use two nebulizers, and take numerous medications. Willig also developed “CF” diabetes and her pancreas no longer functions. She has had two reconstructive surgeries on her nose to open her nasal passage and has gone to physical therapy to learn breathing exercises. Yet, she increased her endurance as a senior in 2020 and returned to playing games again with the help of a new medication. “I didn’t think I would ever get to play soccer again,” Willig told the Tribune-Review. “I was in the hospital during the (2019) season. My friends FaceTimed me during homecoming so I could see the parade.” Now at Geneva College, Willig played eight games and started four as a freshman in 2021. She assisted on two goals. Those with CF often have shorter lifespans, but the new medication Willig takes has her hopeful. “We would do sprints and I would have to stop so I could fully breathe,” she said. “Now I can keep up with the other girls.” While at Norwin, she also was active with school’s Unified sports programs of track and field and bocce. She became a champion for raising awareness of cystic fibrosis, and in the past dyed her hair purple during CF awareness month in May. Willig plans to become a special education teacher.