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November 4, 2014 • Headlines

Lauren Hill is all smiles as she accepts the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award presented by former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt during halftime at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati Sunday, Nov. 2.
Rick Howard of the American Legion Riders of Rushville, left, presents a certificate to Lt. Randy Holt and deputy Marcus McConnell, far right, for their assistance in an accident involving their members. One of the victims, Kathy Henry, is pictured with the Ripley County Sheriff’s Officers.
Lauren Hill poses for a photo during her tour of the Cintas Center at Xavier University. PHOTO COURTESY OF TOM EISER / XAVIER UNIVERSITY
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‘The best day I ever had’
Lauren Hill scores more than points
for college, cancer research

Suzzi Romines

November 2, 2014, will long be remembered as an important day for pediatric cancer awareness and for the life and legacy of 19- year-old Lauren Hill of Greendale. Lauren, diagnosed with DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) in November of 2013, was recently informed, after a follow up MRI confirmed what she felt inside, that her tumor had grown. Instead of the possible two years survival time she was initially given, she was told she had just weeks to live. Lauren had just one wish and that wish was to feel well enough to play in her first collegiate basketball game. This wish was granted with the combined efforts of Mount St. Joseph staff, Xavier University, Hiram College, her medical team and the NCAA that granted the game to be moved up two weeks due to Lauren’s health.

Lauren Hill receives award

It was a sell-out crowd at Lauren Hill’s first collegiate game Sunday, Nov. 2. Above, she was presented an award by Pat Summitt, former University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach, right. Other sports professionals, such as WNBA player Tamika Catchings, were also there for support. Mel Greenberg, WNBA sportswriter, is at left. Below right, Lauren wore pink-framed sunglasses because the lights aggravated her condition.

Lauren Hill The team’s opener against the Hiram College Terriers was played at the Cintas Center, the large facility offered by Xavier University to accommodate the sold-out crowd of 10,250 fans. The Cintas Center can accommodate a far larger number than the average 129 spectators that the MSJ ladies basketball team has often played. Many from Ripley County followed Lauren’s story, as local teams had played against her when she was at Lawrenceburg High School. Two busloads of Jac-Cen-Del students and families were spotted in the Xavier parking lot for Sunday's game.

Lauren and the team entered the court to the boisterous sound of fans from near and far, which included a crowd of thousands from her hometown of Greendale / Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and busloads of local fans from Jac-Cen-Del, Switzerland County, and beyond. The noise and lights compounded the headaches associated with DIPG; so, Lauren warmed up wearing sunglasses and earplugs evening using headphones throughout the game.
The teams were announced in big-time style with cheerleaders and mascots, her high school band playing the school song, and with basketball and other celebrities in the front row. The crowd gave her the most welcoming cheer as they witnessed a special moment in time, Lauren’s dream coming true. First year head coach Dan Benjamin didn’t just put her in, she started the game.

Within the first 17 seconds following tip-off, the ball was passed to Lauren, and with her non-dominate left hand, she scored the first two points. She was then taken out of the game, and she watched and cheered her teammates being subbed in and out. At halftime, the score was 28 – 25, Mount Saint Joseph University with the lead.

During halftime Brad Johansen of Channel 12 News in Cincinnati, along with Keith Desserich, Founder of The Cure Starts Now, who lost his daughter Elena seven years ago to DIPG, introduced the half-time presentations. Lauren was presented the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award by Pat Summitt herself, former Tennessee head coach. This award is usually reserved for a player or coach belonging to one of the Final Four women’s collegiate teams. Other surprises included an announcement that Walgreen’s will make a match for the first $10,000 in donations, received by texting 88588 to 4thecure. Coach Stephanie White of the WNBA Indiana Fever also pledged $5,000 from their organization to The Cure Starts Now. WNBA players Elena Della Donne, Skylar Diggins, and Tamika Catchings were in attendance to support Lauren Hill, along with Fred Jackson of the Buffalo Bills who came for this memorable game. Johansen also announced that 220, #22 jerseys from around the country were sent to Lauren. She kept a few, but the rest she signed and requested that they be auctioned off to continue to raise money for pediatric brain cancer research. One other important announcement was that every year, the American Sports Network pledged to broadcast an annual Lauren Hill game in upcoming basketball seasons.

Lauren Hill and dad


Lauren’s brother left, and dad, Bren,t give No. 22 a big hug. Her mom is pictured right.

With just 10 minutes into the last half, Hiram College was leading 43 – 42 and Lauren Hill was not on the bench, possibly due to the headaches and nausea she experiences, and unquestionably a much deserving rest from so much attention and excitement. But, keeping Lauren Hill away would prove to be impossible. She came back among her teammates with pink sunglasses and headphones on and cheered on her team. With just one minute to go, Lauren took off her sunglasses and earplugs, adjusted her knee pads, and the chant “We Want Lauren” filled the stands. A time-out was called and near the 25-second mark, Lauren made her second appearance in the game. The ball was passed to Hill who missed the layup on her first shot and was rebounded by #24 Tara Dennis who passed to Lauren. Lauren then used her right hand and sealed the deal for the final basket of the game. The final score was Mount St. Joseph Lions 66 - 55; Lauren Hill, 4 points.

The post-game ceremony included Lauren being presented the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award by Jean Dell, Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Women’s Sports Association, who stated their group has never been more proud to present to such a deserving recipient. The total from the day’s fundraising efforts was announced and between donations and item sales, The Cure Starts Now will receive more than $40,000 to put towards DIPG research

Lauren was handed the microphone to speak at both half-time and post-game, and then afterwards at the press conference. She thanked everyone for their continued support and for striving to find a cure for DIPG even after she is no longer with us. She had said in the press conference that it felt awesome making those two baskets, especially the second basket as she was strong enough to make it with her dominate right hand, which is the side of her body that’s been most effected with loss of feeling and coordination due to the growing brain tumor. Lauren also noted through her tears that she hoped she made her parents proud, and to celebrate this day, she just wanted to go home and be with her family.

It will be unlikely that anyone associated with Lauren and DIPG will fail to recall this occasion, and what Lauren’s taught others about never giving up, following dreams, and the many ways people came together to make this young girl’s wish come true. And, no one will ever forget the moment at the end of the game when MSJ freshman Lauren Hill stood in the middle of center court with tears in her eyes and with 10,000 fans surrounding her, and said, “Today has been the best day that I ever had.”

For more information on DIPG and to donate to fight pediatric cancer go to Read more about Lauren's journey in the October 28 print edition of the Osgood Journal. Subscribers can read the article about Lauren's journey by clicking My e-Edition and accessing the digital edition.

Position is more about people than money
Foundation director to retire

Mary Mattingly

Sally Morris laughs recalling when she was interviewed for the Ripley County Community Foundation executive director position. “They interviewed me and I didn’t know much about a foundation, but I assumed it involved money. During the interview I said, ‘I am a social worker, that’s my background. I’m not a bookkeeper or an accountant. And, they said, ‘Oh, you don’t have to do anything with money!’”

Sally Morris


Sally Morris, the Ripley County Community Foundation director since 1997, is retiring next month.

Seventeen years later she chuckles because the foundation is much about money…managing endowments and bestowing grants.

“They had just $60,000 in assets to begin with and now we have almost $11 million!” But, she also knows the foundation is more about people and helping others and, ultimately, growing your community for the future. Morris might not be a bookkeeper, but she is compassionate, goal-oriented and determined, which are all important qualities for a foundation director. She says her high school friends would probably be surprised at her position as she was quiet, not out-going. But, moving around a lot, since her father was a minister, helped the Hoosier native develop people skills and ultimately confidence that helped lead the RCCF. Board members will say though that the foundation is more about building relationships, and that’s Sally’s forte. Morris is retiring next month from what started as a part-time job. Her last day is Dec. 19. A reception will be held Nov. 7 in her honor at the RCCF office in the RomWeber building in Batesville from 2 to 5 p.m. She has also been named the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year and will be recognized by the chamber on Nov. 13.

The Ripley County resident of 28 years—the longest place she has ever lived --Morris admits she doesn’t like that sort of attention. “The foundation is not me. It’s we!” she says. She’s being modest though. Many associate the foundation with Sally Morris. As Linda Chandler, publisher of Ripley Publishing and RCCF board member noted in the nominating letter for Sally as Citizen of the Year,“Sally is the face of the foundation.” Brenda Wetzler, board member, states, “The hours she has dedicated to our county are astronomical!” Under her direction, the RCCF has grown to 160 endowments funds. Over $14 million has been given in some form to the county over 16 years. It all started with a Lilly Endowment, Inc. grant to encourage the 92 counties in the state to create community foundations to serve their residents. A board of 15 directors oversee the administration of the assets and 4 1/2 full and part-time paid staff members manage the day-to- day operations.

Public Perception
Although it has been around since 1998, many don’t understand what RCCF is. Simply put, the foundation helps people of all means improve their community now and in the future. Most of the funds are endowments. An endowment is a permanent gift invested for growth and income is granted each year to support charitable causes. Many have the misconception that because they manage assets of millions of dollars, the RCCF has lots of money to operate. They don’t; the RCCF is a nonprofit and like most non-profits, struggles to operate with few resources.

“The biggest challenge is understanding who we are and what we do,” Morris acknowledged. She tries to spread the word of the difference between philanthropy and charity, one being to help immediate needs while philanthropists provide funds with a strategy aiming for long-term improvements. Marketing and public relations help, but she has learned it’s the one to one relationships that build and spread the message, and that takes time. Morris has helped many local families through loss and grief to set up endowments in the name of loved ones. Her favorite part of the job, she says, is working with donors. “I see people in the worst time of their lives when they have lost a loved one, but they come in and want to somehow make that loved one live forever. And, I get the privilege of talking to them.” She adds,“When I was a social worker I often saw the saddest part of life. What I see now through donors is people who have had a difficult time, but want to give back to the community. It’s rewarding. I really see the best of the best!”

A mother of two grown daughters, she can’t help but be touched by memorials established for children who died too young. Nonetheless, “I’m amazed at what people give back in our county,” she said mentioning the generosity of many for Holton’s recovery from the tornado. “That will always be one of my best memories of people and the RCCF helping one another,” she says. One that was more difficult for the RCCF was the 2008 recession. People in need didn’t understand how the stock market affected the RCCF investments, which meant less return for grants or scholarships, and thus less monetary award to bestow. Things have turned around and she proudly says their finance committee reported a 17.9 percent investment return for 2013. She and husband Jim Morris actually created a fund five years ago in honor of their parents. It’s to help the foundation’s operations. “I had no idea how healing it was to do so,” she added.

Of the many RCCF accomplishments, she cites the Indiana Virtual Academy as high on her list. She also mentions the Eco15 program with the long-term impact to students, business and schools. Morris says she is grateful the RCCF gave her the opportunity to meet so many people in the county, from the board members and volunteers to business and community leaders, and beyond. “It’s such a blessing,” she gushes.

Retirement plans
It was time for retirement though, and it helps that her husband is ending his elected position as superior court judge too. She said they plan on spending more time with their two daughters, Lauren and Sarah, both who live out of state, and their new grandson. Then there are house projects she never had time to that she wants to tackle. She is excited for the future of RCCF led by new director Amy Streator. “All these funds make such a difference in our county,” she said, such as the buildings at the fairgrounds or the new Rescue 69 truck, programs at the library, arts groups and more, many supported by RCCF funds. Retired or not, Morris will probably always be a cheerleader for RCCF and for the county. It’s become a part of her. It seems appropriate one of her favorite sayings is “Bloom where you are planted.” Ripley County and the foundation is fortunate Sally Morris planted here.

Pick up this week's edition of the Osgood Journal for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

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