The Musial Award for Extraordinary Character is one of two special honors bestowed at the Musial Awards. It recognizes an individual or team who demonstrates remarkable poise, perseverance and overall sportsmanship, and whose approach and accomplishments reflect the character attributes Stan the Man embodied. This year, we are honored to celebrate the legacy of Lauren Hill, whose grace, courage and generous spirit inspired people around the world. We are grateful to have Lauren’s parents, Lisa and Brent, accept the Extraordinary Character award on their daughter’s behalf.
Two years ago, Lauren Hill was a senior at Lawrenceburg High School in Greendale, Ind., preparing for college and basketball at Mount Saint Joseph near Cincinnati, Ohio, when dizzy spells sent her to the doctor. The diagnosis: diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a rare pediatric brain cancer. Lauren lived just a year but made an impact few could have imagined. Except perhaps her friends and family.
“To me she was just Lauren,” said her mom, Lisa. “She always was determined, competitive and goal driven.”
Rather than succumb quietly, she set out to increase awareness of the disease. She created the LayUp4Lauren Challenge, which consisted of spinning five times and shooting a layup with a non-dominant hand. Make it, and challenge someone else. Miss, and donate $10 to her foundation.
“Lauren just wanted everything to be as normal as possible,” Lisa said. “But… it was normal on steroids.”
Lauren also set out to play basketball. With her determination and help from the college basketball community, she accomplished her dream. At the beginning of last season, Hiram College, Mount Saint Joseph’s first opponent, gave up its home court advantage so Lauren could play in front of family and friends. The NCAA also allowed the schools to move their game up two weeks. By that time, the LayUp4Lauren Challenge had gained so much momentum that Xavier University provided its court to accommodate 10,000 spectators.
Lauren started the game, scored after just 17 seconds, then retired to the bench. When the crowd chanted, “We want Lauren,” though, she returned for the end of the game.
“Watching her achieve her dream to play basketball in front of 10,250 fans was amazing,” Lisa said. “I didn’t cry that day as I knew it wouldn’t be her last game because she is always determined to prove everyone wrong.”
Her spirit and her story took on a life of its own. Lauren played in three more games, scored four more layups, then retired to become an assistant coach at Mount Saint Joseph.
She continued to make appearances and grant interviews to raise awareness of pediatric cancer, and earned an honorary doctorate of letters from her alma mater.
“Lauren was typically reserved,” Lisa said. “I am most surprised that she was able to let her guard down to become a voice and speak out about the needed research and medications to find a cure for DIPG.”
Lauren lost her battle April 10.
“She was worried the donations for research would slow down or even stop just because she is not here on earth with us. Our children need hope for survival and not a death sentence,” Lisa said.
Instead, her legacy has grown. A woman who lives near Lauren’s hometown ran 222 miles to raise money in her name. Lisa and husband Brent attended the ESPYs in Lauren’s honor. Donations to her foundation have surpassed $2 million.
“I think people just found Lauren so inspirational because she reminded us of the important things in life, nonmaterial items,” Lisa said. “She reminded us to not give up on your dreams even if you’re handed a huge lemon.”