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Adams: Remembering Lauren Hill

As you may have seen on social media this morning, the heroic Lauren Hill died during the night. She was just 19.

unnamedI had written about her here a few months ago, and have followed and been greatly inspired by her story.

As a 12th grader, the young lady from Lawrenceburg, Indiana committed to play college basketball for Mount St. Joseph College, a private Catholic college near Cincinnati. Weeks later and just after her 18th birthday, she was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, a rare form that usually hits children much younger. DIPG is a brain tumor that wraps itself around the brain stem and squeezes off vital functions. She was given two years to live, max. She finished 12th grade taking chemo and followed through with her plans for college.

During this, her freshman year, doctors gave her the terrible news that the cancer was worse and she was not expected to live past December.

Her dream had been to play in a college basketball game, so they moved up the season opener from November 15th to November 2nd. Word got out in the Cincinnati area about her story, and Xavier University offered their 10,000 seat arena for the game. It sold out in 40 minutes.

Lauren was right handed. The brain tumor was affecting her right side the most so in that game she would have to shoot with her non dominant left hand. She only had the strength to go up and down the court once or twice at the most, so her coach diagrammed an opening play for her and hoped and prayed they would get the opening tip. They did, and Lauren caught a pass and scored, sending the 10,000 fans into great joy!

unnamed-1Lauren would play in four games and score a perfect ten points. What many people don’t know was that once she stepped down as a player, she kept coming to practices…at 5:30 in the morning. Excruciating headaches would sometimes cause her to just lean against her Mom during the practice. At games she would wear ear plugs and sun glasses because of sensitivity to noise and light.

It was during a powerful prayer session at church that she said God put it on her heart to be the face of the DIPG cancer that most often was found in children around ages 5 to 8. Using every ounce of what strength she had, Lauren led a drive that raised a staggering 1.5 million dollars.

Cancer wasn’t her first obstacle. As a 12th grader at Lawrenceburg High she was cut before her season season as soccer goalie by the coach, even though she had been a standout as an 11th grader. Soccer had been her favorite sport, but she made the best of it and focused on basketball.

What’s ironic is that in her first game back on Nov. 2, she was awarded the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award with the legendary former Tennessee coach — despite battling Alzheimers — being there to present it.

unnamed-2That award is normally given at the end of the season at the women’s Final Four. With Lauren not expected to make it past this December, they did it early.

She would end up living until the Final Four, which ended three days ago in Tampa.

In her final days and with barely enough strength to hold her head up and keep her eyes open, Lauren talked about the hardest part of her battle. I have put the video clip in below. My goodness….

Lauren Hill talks about the hardest parts of her battle with DIPG

unnamed-3As I watch the tributes today, it is awe inspiring to see the impact she has made. As one person wrote, she has done more in 19 years than most do in 80.

She never gave up even when treatments caused her appearance to change significantly from when she was a 12th grader. She still did interviews, including one via satellite for The View, because she wanted to raise funds so that in the future little kids would not have to go through what she was going through.

Ironically, this Sunday evening we are going to honor and learn from another remarkable young woman. As many of you know, I host a monthly night of inspiration at my church here in South Bend. Anna Rohrer is going to be the special guest.

The nation’s best high school cross country runner, she recently made history when she ran the 5K at the New Balance Indoors in New York and won in a staggering time of 16 minutes and ten seconds. That’s the fastest time ever for a high school girl in America. To grasp the magnitude, the field was made up of the nation’s best high school girls, state champs galore. Anna ran in 16:10. The 3rd place girl was 16:40!

unnamed-5Anna carries a 4.4 GPA at Mishawaka High School. She is the top flute player in the state, and will play for us some Sunday evening. Every school in the country recruited her and she will sign this week with Notre Dame over Stanford, NCAA champ Providence and others. The spiritual setting of Notre Dame was a factor for Anna, who has a strong faith in God.

She has overcome adversity, losing an entire year to injury. I will ask her about that, her drive, Olympic goals, and much more. I will also bring up her Dad and coach to get their insights.

We have lost Lauren Hill. She will never be forgotten. We are fortunate to have remarkable young people like Anna Rohrer to carry on with the same kind of spirit of Lauren Hill.

In her historic 16:10 5K, Anna was tripped, and fell behind, but in the spirit of Lauren, she never gave up, and came back to win!



Peak Performance speaker Charlie Adams is a 1980 grad of Lafayette High who is an Ole Miss alum. His new motivational keynote More Than a Miracle is a powerful description of the greatest moment in United Sports history. He shares how a group of college kids upset the best team in hockey history in Lake Placid in the winter of 1980, and galvanized America along the way.

“I literally had to choke back tears about 5 times during this Talk. Now I now feel as if I can do anything! ANYTHING!!” – Christopher Pataro, lawyer

“As powerful a motivational talk as I have heard in 40 years.” – Bob Bayliss, former tennis coach at Notre Dame and Navy

Charlie can be reached at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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