By Dave Andrusko
Talk about something coming all together. Lauren Hill is the courageous freshman basketball player who on top of battling terminal brain cancer fought to achieve what seemed to be an unattainable goal, given her condition—playing in a college basketball game.
Lauren did, in not just one game but two. As ESPN’s Carrie Blackmore Smith put it, Hill is the “Mount St. Joseph University basketball player who has stolen America’s heart.”
As it happened just this week I viewed once again the incredible ESPN-produced story of the late Jim Valvano, the North Carolina State basketball coach whose steadfast courage in his battle against cancer to this day reduces grown men to tears. “Jimmy V’s” speech at the ESPY’s in 1993 will always be remembered for his “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” insistence, a few months before he died.
I hadn’t watched the speech for at least a decade. It sent chills up and down my spine to watch a man who had to be helped to get to the podium motivate an awestruck audience of professional and amateur superstar athletes.
How did the stories of these two remarkable people come together? On Saturday, ESPN and the Jimmy V foundation presented a $100,000 grant during the Jimmy V Women’s Basketball Classic which featured a match-up between No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 Connecticut. I didn’t get a chance to see the special presentation, but I read that Hill was “honored during a special presentation featuring the participating coaches, Geno Auriemma of Connecticut and Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame.”
“Lauren’s spirit and bravery are an inspiration to us all,” said Susan Braun, CEO of The V Foundation for Cancer Research. “We send our heartfelt support to Lauren and her family and pledge to do everything in our power to put an end to cancer.”
According to WCPO 9, that $100,000 brought to more $600,000 the amount of money raised in Lauren’s name for cancer research. “The money has come from her Layup4Lauren challenge , performed by celebrities, teams and supporters across country, along with an online jersey auction, proceeds from her first college game, sales of T-shirts and wristbands, and donations,” reported Andy Lyons.
As NRL News Today reported, last week Hill’s parents announced that Lauren is receiving hospice care. If you go to the family’s Facebook page, you’ll learn that she has set a goal of raising $1,000,000 by December 31.
Lyons was not exaggerating when he wrote that after Lauren played in her first game, “Hill became an instant legend on social media, where sports stars and celebrities saluted her courage and determination.”
Her grace under pressure—the classic definition of courage—deserved no less.
We’ve reported on Lauren, an antidote to fatalism and despair, a number of times. The response of our readers has been awesome.
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For those late to the story, five weeks ago, Lauren, fighting Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), played for her team against Hiram. She was mobbed by her teammates after she scored with her off hand because of the impact of the cancer on her right side.
In many ways the most remarkable part of her story is that even though she wasn’t going to play in the next game, Lauren drove with her family the entire four-hours it took to see Mt. St. Joseph play its second game of the season.
“The team is part of her family,” her mom told ESPN’s Lynn Olszowy. “We knew we were coming. It was whether or not she would play or be in a wheelchair. It just depends on the day.”
Then, a couple of weeks later, Lauren played briefly in the game against Bethany College and scored a basket. Olszowy wrote
The fact the layup was with Hill’s right hand is remarkable. The play is designed to go to the left because Hill has lost strength on the right side of her body due to the effects of inoperable brain cancer.
But, as her mom, Lisa, said in the stands after her daughter scored: “She’s a bold girl.”
Bold she is. And Brave. And a beautiful example of using a tragedy not to compound the misery by enlisting in the pro-assisted suicide army but ameliorating the misery and raising spirits by raising money to find a cure.