Lauren Hill just wanted to play college basketball. A rare form of brain cancer took away her athletic career, and then her life, but Hill was able to make an emotional debut on the hardwood before 10,000 people at a Cincinnati arena, and that was the site on Monday for a memorial service in her honor.
Hill died Friday at the age of 19 from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glimoma, which had been diagnosed during her senior year in high school. Doctors gave her just months to live, and Hill was determined to use those months as best she could, raising funds and awareness to fight DIPG.
Mount St. Joseph, the Division III school where Hill enrolled, wanted to give Hill a chance to live her dream and play some basketball, at least briefly, and the NCAA agreed to let it play its November season opener against Hiram two weeks early, in case Hill’s condition became too poor to let her participate.
Interest in that game was such that it was moved to Xavier’s Cintas Center, where there were few dry eyes in the house when Hill started the game and hit a layup.
Hill also hit a basket at the end of the game, and she appeared in a few more contests, scoring a total of 10 points in her college career. More importantly, her efforts helped raise over $1.5 million for cancer research.
On Friday, Hill succumbed to her disease, and on Monday, a crowd again showed up at Cintas Center, this time to celebrate her memory. From the Associated Press:
Lauren Hill’s gray, metal casket was wheeled into the 10,000-seat basketball arena and placed at the spot where she made her first basket only five months ago. …
The public was invited to file past the closed casket in an upstairs conference room. A spray of white, pink and purple roses rested atop it.
Family photos flanked the casket, along with a photo of her in a cape and a quote from actor Christopher Reeve: “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
Then the casket was taken down to the arena for the hour-long memorial, resting on the spot of her famous layup. The backboard and basket were off to the side, with the attached game clock and shot clock set to 22 — her number. …
Music from her iPod was played at the start of the memorial. The second song on her playlist: James Taylor’s “You’ve Got A Friend.”
There was video of her layup only 17 seconds into Mount St. Joseph’s 66-55 win over Hiram College in the season-opening game that was moved up to Nov. 2 because of her declining condition.
One of her favorites — Katy Perry’s “Roar” — was chosen to end the memorial.