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Motivated by a Memory

Bridget Sandy is thriving but hasn’t forgotten the teammate she lost

Bridget Sandy works in the same hospital unit where she was treated as a child. Submitted by Bridget Sandy

Bridget Sandy and LeeAnn Noble were teammates and friends at the University of North Georgia, but the bond between the golfers deepened after their shared backgrounds as Make-A-Wish recipients led to an appearance on the cover of Champion magazine’s fall 2013 issue. Through interviews and photo shoots, they learned more about the details of their separate but similar journeys.

Sandy, who defeated leukemia as a child, treasured Noble’s unfailing positivity – despite a heart transplant years before and health worries that persisted – through innumerable hours spent together on the links. Both hoped to become nurses who would tend to children facing predicaments like the ones they had overcome.

Then, only a few months after they swapped stories and shared a magazine cover, Noble’s heart again failed her. In the weeks that followed, she couldn’t speak but squeezed Sandy’s hand when her friend came to visit at an acute-care facility. Sandy never heard Noble’s voice again – in March 2014 she died in the hospital. Two days later, Sandy learned she had been accepted into North Georgia’s undergraduate nursing program. Her biggest wish fulfilled, she didn’t celebrate. “It was really hard,” Sandy says.

But she pressed on, playing a final season on North Georgia’s golf team before focusing on her studies full time. She graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. This summer, she started the job she had long dreamed of: Working as a nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s cancer and blood disorders unit – the same one where, as a child, she received the treatment that saved her.

Sandy also donates time to Make-A-Wish, meeting with children and their families to determine what trips or events would be the best fit and helping coordinate wish reveals to awed kids, much like someone once did for her trip to Disney World and Noble’s to New York. “I realized I needed to do more, since we were both connected through Make-A-Wish,” she says. “That’s what pushes me.”

One friend is living her dreams and the other lost her life, but the one who is thriving hasn’t forgotten the one who is gone. Amid her sometimes unpredictable schedule, Sandy still occasionally finds time for golf. When she plays, she remembers what it was like to drive and chip and putt alongside a teammate who shared a similar past and had similar dreams but was robbed of the chance to fulfill them. She thinks of Noble dropping by her room, her laugh a welcome remedy for the stress of another day spent studying greens and textbooks. “There are little things,” Sandy says. “She still impacts me today.”

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.