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Not often will an NFL backup defensive lineman and a freshman forward on a Division III women’s basketball team make national news and touch countless lives. But in the last month we have seen the power of sports touch emotions and raise millions of dollars.
The story of Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still’s daughter, Leah, and her fight against pediatric cancer reached far beyond the NFL. More than $1.3 million was raised through the sale of Still’s number 75 jersey for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and its pediatric cancer research.
Just as dramatic, is the story of Lauren Hill, the Mt. St. Joseph basketball player who was diagnosed her senior year of high school with an inoperable brain tumor and whose only wish was to play a college basketball game. The NCAA allowed the school to move up the date of its season opener to assure Lauren would be well enough to play in at least that one game.
But her #layups4Lauren campaign, similar to this summer’s ice bucket challenge, continues, as she challenges celebrities and pro athletes to make a donation to The Cure Starts Now, dedicated to raising funds for pediatric cancer research. Her efforts, too, are raising hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I never thought I would play on a college court, put my feet on the floor and feel the vibration of the crowd,” she said after that first game against Hiram College. That is a quote from someone who truly loves her sport and is grateful for the opportunity to play.
Every once in a while, the games that student-athletes and professionals play transcend sports and remind us what is really important. A 4-year-old who is undergoing chemotherapy and a 19-year-old grateful to take the court before the inevitable occurs remind us that sports can touch us all and can make a difference long after the final buzzer sounds.