There was a lot to celebrate this weekend for the University of Findlay women’s soccer team. From the official start of the season, to the end of a fight against cancer, it was an exciting day at DeHaven Field.
“We talk a lot about effort, attitude, commitment, competing, fighting, scrapping,” said Head Women’s Soccer Coach, Jimmy Walker, “and if there’s a person that can represent us this weekend better than anybody it’s Lauren.”
Lauren Cunningham, the team’s Make-A-Wish child, was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 10. Four years later, she is now in remission.
“I think the meaning behind the game with Lauren has got a little bit more to it,” said Walker. “This is our last game with her, so the game is kind of like her graduation game from the program she’s in.”
Assistant Coach Dani Johnson says the program wanted to highlight Lauren by having her at kickoff.
“Hopefully she’s just a small person full of smiles and we can feed off that,” said Johnson. “It’ll just add an extra element to the game and if the girls can handle it in a mature emotional stance. It’ll be a really good game with competitive fire and emotion attached to it.”
The emotion didn’t stop with just Lauren, either. Freshman Addie Graham was the UF women’s soccer team Make-a-Wish child back in 2006 and 2007. She says from now to then, being a member of the team is a full-circle experience.
“It’s crazy because when I first started this journey I came to Findlay and did that Make-a-Wish game,” said Graham. “Twelve years later I’m here, so it’s crazy to see the growth.”
As for how Graham feels about the game this weekend, she is always looking for a way to give back.
“I think it’s cool to give back,” said Graham. “Like what Findlay did for me, I think it’s cool that we’re doing that for Lauren, and I think it will really help her out to be there for her.”
With this game being so meaningful, Walker feels it will be a good way to build off last season and work toward the team’s goals.
“Last year we got to the final four, which was a really good improvement from where we had been,” said Walker. “So we want to be, at the end of the season, fighting to be in that same position and be able to compete for that conference championship because that’s ultimately the goal – we want to win our conference and hopefully be in a position where we can qualify for the NCAA tournament.”
The Oilers would go on to win the game 2-1 in a game that went to extra time, getting the game winner from Olivia Frank.
All proceeds from the game went toward childhood cancer research. To read more about Lauren’s story, visit https://flutter.nationwidechildrens.org/laurens-story/.