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Lauren Hill dies, but her legacy will live on

Lauren Hill, the Mount St. Joseph basketball player, was determined to turn the fact that she was dying from an inoperable brain cancer into something positive that might help save others.

She succeeded.

Update: A public memorial service will be held Monday, April 13 at Xavier University’s Cintas Center at 7 p.m. A private funeral service will be held Wednesday.

The university also says a “Run for 22” event the Mount’s resident assistants had planned for Sunday has been postponed.

"It's not often you get to celebrate a loss... but today, we celebrate a victory of how to live a life through Lauren Hill." - Coach Dan Benjamin

During a vigil at the Mount Friday afternoon, coach Dan Benjamin told hundreds who gathered, "The toughest thing for a coach ever, ever to do is to deal with a loss. We lost the biggest game of our careers. We lost a player. We lost a friend, a daughter, and we lost and unselfish angel. It's not often you get to celebrate a loss... but today, we celebrate a victory of how to live a life through Lauren Hill."

The Mount's men's soccer coach stepped forward to say that Hill had touched people across the world. He said he'd heard from friends in Brazil, Ireland and other other countries who'd heard about Hill's fundraising efforts and were inspired.

A teammate says she's remembering Hill with a smile. "The pain will end; a smile does not. I know Lauren is smiling, so I'm going to smile and I would like everyone else to keep smiling for Lauren."

The 19-year-old Lawrenceburg woman’s long battle with cancer ended when she passed away early Friday morning. But she leaves behind a legacy – her efforts on behalf of The Cure Starts Now, a foundation for cancer research founded by a Mason couple, Keith and Brooke Desserich, after their six-year-old daughter died of the same brain cancer.

Hill’s work raised about $1.4 million for cancer research, according to a statement released by The Cure Starts Now this morning.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Lauren Hill at Mount St. Joseph last fall.

“Through Lauren’s fundraising and advocacy efforts, she not only became a spotlight on the lack of funding for cancer research but she has most certainly become a beacon for guiding researchers for years to come,’’ said Brooke Desserich of The Cure Starts Now.

Hill first came to national attention last November, when she appeared in a basketball game against Hiram College at a sold-out Cintas Center on the Xavier University campus. She scored the first goal in that game. The game raised more than $58,000 for The Cure Starts Now.

She appeared in three more games before her health forced her to leave the team. But she was named the honorary coach of the Mount St. Joseph women’s basketball team.

Hill suffered from DIPG – diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. The money she raised for The Cure Starts Now went to the International DIPG Registry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The registry collects brain tissue samples and patient information with the goal of finding better treatment for DIPG.

She leaves behind her parents, Brent and Lisa, and a brother and sister. Services have not been announced.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.
Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.