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Covington Catholic football team honors friend who died of brain cancer

Team lives up to motto, ensures Ashley Schaefer's spirit 'will not die'
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Posted at 7:19 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 21:08:30-05

PARK HILLS, Ky. — Some say that a ring represents eternity.

“To me a ring is a symbol of love,” said Amy Schaefer. “A symbol that I am never going to forget you.”

It represents an ever-living feeling, or spirit.

Ashley Schaefer, Amy’s step-daughter, lived with a spirit of selflessness, according to her closest friends; but her life ended far too soon.

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Ashley Schaefer, a Beechmont High graduate and cheerleader, died of brain cancer in 2019. Her friends on Covington Catholic's football team came up with a way to honor her memory.

“She was very determined. A very strong-willed person,” said Amy Schaefer. “She definitely put up the fight of a lifetime.”

In December 2018, she started getting headaches.

“She had gotten lightheaded. She ended up going to the hospital. At first they thought it was dehydration,” Amy explained.

What doctors initially thought was dehydration turned out to be brain cancer. Eight months later, Ashley died. She had just turned 18 years old.

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John Lawrie, a Covington Catholic football player and a friend of Ashley Schaefer.

“We all lost something when she passed,” said John Lawrie, Ashley’s good friend.

Ashley was a cheerleader at Beechwood High School in Northern Kentucky, but some of her closest friends, including Lawrie, were football players at Covington Catholic.

“We wanted to be there for the family and do something in honor of her because she was close to a lot of us,” explained Lawrie.

That fall, the football team put stickers bearing Ashley's initials on their helmets.

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Amy Schaefer

“It was amazing,” said Amy. “When they look at their helmet or look back, they’d think of it from time to time. That, for us, is never going to be forgotten, ever.”

They kept her memory with the team every step of the way.

“It was a constant memory of who she was,” said Lawrie. “Having it on there, everybody was rallying around one thing.”

The Colonels rallied around Ashley, all the way to the state championship game.

“[The players] came up to us after that [game]. [John] was like, ‘She was watching over us.’ I do think that she was,” said Amy.

Wearing her initials on their helmets and her memory on their hearts, Covington Catholic won the state title, capping off a perfect season.

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Cov Cath football helmets bear a sticker with Ashley Schaefer's initials.

“You take off your helmet after a 15-0 season and you see her initials on the back. It reminds you how blessed we are to have these opportunities to live every singe day,” said Lawrie.

“It’s overwhelming, the love and effect she had on people in the short amount of time she was here,” said Amy.

With the season over, the players got their championship rings; but there was still one thing left to do – still one member of the team that needed a ring.

Covington Catholic presented Ashley Schaefer’s family with a state championship ring. It has Ashley’s name on the side, along with the initials “AS” engraved on a football helmet.

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Schaefer's family accepts a state championship ring from Covington Catholic's football team.

“In that instance, knowing she wasn’t forgotten is humongous,” explained Amy. “Knowing that her spirit will never die. She’ll always be touching lives … even though she’s not here still.”

The motto at Covington Catholic is “with a spirit that will not die.” If a ring represents eternity, the Colonels are living by that motto by making sure Ashley Schaefer’s spirit never dies.

"She’ll always be a part of us, and we’ll always be a part of their family and her," Lawrie said.