GREENDALE, Ind. — The legacy of Lauren Hill lives on.
The 19-year-old Mount St. Joseph University basketball player died nearly five years ago from DIPG, a rare brain cancer. But she inspired the Tri-State and the country with her determination to take the court despite her disease and her dedication to raise more than $2.2 million for research on behalf of other DIPG victims.
And Lauren's community continues to support her today by raising funds for Lauren Hill Memorial Park. Groundbreaking is expected this spring on more than 80 acres in her hometown of Greendale.
“It’s exciting. I can’t wait to see it,” Lauren’s father, Brent Hill, said Thursday as he visited the site with his daughter Erin, Lauren’s sister.
The site used to be a landfill, but now they're hoping it will fill the community with inspiration.
“I think it’s going to be a wonderful place for all those communities to come together and to interact and be together and talk, and maybe even talk about Lauren a little bit and be inspired while they’re here,” Brent Hill said.
Lauren tried to inspire everyone to "never give up." That includes Elder High School senior Adam Duwel. He didn't know her personally, but he’s now a part of the nonprofit Friends of Lauren Hill.
“Right when she got diagnosed (at age 18), they were doing fundraisers for her and everything and it was one of those feel-good stories,” Duwel said.
In 2014, Lauren’s first game against Hiram College drew a sellout crowd of 10,250 to Xavier University’s Cintas Center. The cheers and applause almost raised the roof when she scored the first and last baskets of the game.
After Lauren died on April 10, 2015, ESPN honored her with an ESPY for “Best Sports Moment” of the year.
She only got to play in four games, and only briefly, but sports legends like LeBron James, Billy Jean King and Mia Hamm rallied behind her, and her legacy was ensured.
Lauren received the first "For the Love of the Game" award presented by the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
She was inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame.
Celebrating her No. 22, Greendale named a street "#22 Lauren Hill Lane.”
READ Lauren’s amazing story here.
Now Duwel is on the team to make the park a reality. Phase one will be a dog park and bike trail, and they're hoping one day to add basketball courts and soccer fields.
"We’re about $50,000 there,” Duwel said.
The goal is $125,000.
“Hopefully we can reach that goal,” Duwel said.
“For us, it’s amazing to have her honored again” Lauren’s dad said. “Just to keep her name out there, to keep her mission out there, to keep her name on the tips of their tongues.”
“I’m so happy that we’re able to do this and keep my sister’s memory alive,” Erin said. “It just means so much.”
You can donate to the Friends of Lauren Hill Memorial Park on the group’s Facebook page.
The Cure Starts Now is still raising money in Lauren’s name to support underfunded research to fight DIPG. You can donate here.