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Saying goodbye to Lauren

Hours after Lauren Hill passed away, hundreds of Mount St. Joseph students, friends, faculty members, coaches and administrators gathered in her honor

The moment Lauren Hill first walked through the lush, green courtyard of Mount St. Joseph University – a statue of St. Joseph towering in the center – she knew she would become a Lion. At the time, she was a Lawrenceburg High School student on her first college visit.

“I loved how everyone who was walking around you would send a smile and say ‘hey,’ even if they didn’t know you,” Hill said last fall. “I loved everything about this school.”

On Friday, as word spread that Hill had lost her battle with an inoperable form of pediatric brain cancer, there was no doubt the school loved her back. Hundreds of students, friends, faculty members, coaches and administrators flooded the courtyard, gathering at the same St. Joseph statue that won over the 19-year-old girl who, despite facing a terminal illness, vowed to “never give up.”

Hill was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, when she was a high school senior. Having already committed to play basketball for Mount St. Joseph, Hill was determined to don a No. 22 jersey for the Lions. Mount St. Joseph received a waiver from the NCAA to move up the women’s season opener last fall to ensure Hill could take the court. On Nov. 2, in front of a sold-out crowd at Xavier University’s Cintas Center, the freshman not only started for her team, but also scored its first and last baskets.

In the difficult months that followed, Hill continued on another mission: spreading the word about DIPG and helping to raise more than $1.4 million for Cincinnati’s The Cure Starts Now Foundation.

Mount St. Joseph women’s basketball head coach Dan Benjamin and his team are prepared to follow Hill’s lead. “It’s time for us to step up, be her voice and carry on her legacy through our program,” the coach told his team Friday afternoon. Minutes later, the women marched through the courtyard with flowers in hand and placed each one in a chain link fence surrounding the statue. Then, hand-in-hand, they joined their peers for a prayer vigil.

Hill’s No. 22 was peppered throughout the crowd on T-shirts, and jerseys, necklaces and wristbands. The chain link fence served as an easel for commemorative tokens. Soccer player Brycen Evans and his teammates signed No. 22 team jerseys before adding them to the display. “Her legacy she left behind shows you really can achieve a lot if you put your mind to it,” Evans said. “She put hope in all of our hearts.”

The emotional scene confirmed what many already knew: Hill’s story will live on.

“Lauren has done so many great things for this institution, my players, my staff and the whole world,” Benjamin told the crowd. “Today we celebrate a victory in how to live a life.”

A public service for Lauren Hill will be held at Xavier University’s Cintas Center at 7 p.m. on April 13.

 

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