Lauren Hill remembered: 'She taught us that every day is a blessing'

Lauren Hill, who lived her college basketball dream despite an inoperable brain tumor, dies at age 19

Lauren Hill, who inspired the world by living her dream as a college basketball player while battling an inoperable brain tumor, died Friday morning at age 19.

Hill was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer a year and a half ago but didn't let that stop her from achieving her goal of scoring a basket in a game for Mount St. Joseph University.

She did that and so much more.

“She's made an impact on the world,” her Coach Dan Benjamin said of the freshman player. “I've gotten so many emails and phone calls from all over the world. People are contacting me because they want to share her story.”

Hill was remembered at an on-campus vigil Friday afternoon attended by several hundred students. School president Tony Aretz said Hill “taught us that every day is a blessing, every moment is a gift.”

One of her coaches read an essay Hill wrote, which ended: “Never give up on your dream. Find something to fight for. I fight for others.”

Her teammates cried on each others' shoulders, attached flowers to a fence in Hill's honor and yelled their slogan from before each game and practice, "Play for 22!"

Benjamin said that the team visited Hill on Thursday to say goodbye. “One of the toughest moments in my coaching career ever was lying next to her in the hospital bed, holding her hand, thanking her,” he said.

After being dealt the news she had less than two years to live as a high school senior, Hill decided to make the most of the time she had left -- and wanted to inspire others to do so too.

“I'm spreading awareness and also teaching people how to live in the moment because the next moment's not promised,” Hill told the Associated Press after one of her team's 6 a.m. practices. “Anything can happen at any given moment. What matters is right now.

“Especially after this kind of diagnosis, your perspective on life and what you value changes.”

Her nonprofit foundation, The Cure Starts Now, has helped to raise more than $1.5 million for cancer research. 

"Even though I'm probably not going to be around to see it, it's going to help a lot of people," she said. "And that's why we need to keep staying with this and not end it with this game, and keep supporting research."

Hill became friends with Cincinnati Bengals player Devon Still and his young daughter Leah, who is battling pediatric cancer. Still posted photos of himself and Leah with Hill on Instagram on Friday morning, along with a touching message.

“Lauren never let this terrible disease define her,” he wrote. “She didn't let it control whether she lived out her dream of playing college ball and she fought to live pass what doctors originally told her she would. Lauren left her mark on this world by showing people what it really meant to NEVER GIVE UP. So would I say she lost her battle with cancer? Hell no! Because of her fight and selfless act of using her fight to raise an incredible amount of money and awareness, doctors will one day find a cure for DIPG!”

He added: “It hurt like hell seeing the news this morning and i'm not even sure how I'm going to tell my daughter.”

Another superstar athlete touched by Hill's story, Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron Jamestweeted a moving tribute in the form of a letter Friday morning:

Dear Lauren Hill,

You are the true definition of strength, courage, power, leadership, etc etc! Your time spent on earth will never be forgotten. I have that I never got the chance to meet u in person but know you inspired me the whole time! For every life u touched, u made the biggest impact of them by just being YOU!! You're in a far better place now and please don't have to much fun up there w/o all your family and friends. Can u please tell my Grandma I said hello. Don't be afraid, she knows you cause we spoke about u plenty of times.

Until we officially meet again, take care and continue to be that LEADER we all love! #RIPLaurenHill


LeBron James

The Cincinnati Reds, Hill's favorite baseball team, announced they would have a moment of remembrance for Hill before Friday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Reds also changed their Twitter profile photo to an avatar of a basketball jersey featuring Hill's name and No. 22.

Hill played in four games and made five layups for Mount St. Joseph before having to leave the team due to her worsening condition. At the end of the season, the players and coaches held their team dinner in her hospital room.

The U.S. Basketball Writers Assn. honored her with the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award.

“Life is precious,” she told WKRC-TV. “Every moment you get with someone is a moment that's blessed, really blessed.”

Twitter: @chewkiii

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


2:04 p.m. This post has been updated with more details from the on-campus vigil.

12:56 p.m.: This post has been updated with details from the on-campus vigil.

10:49 p.m.:  This post has been updated with the Cincinnati Reds' tribute to Hill.

8:41 a.m.: This post has been updated with a tweet from LeBron James.

This post was originally published at 7:18 a.m.