A Tribute To Lauren Hill, As You've Never Seen Her

Apr 13, 2016

Lauren Hill high five's a friend at Mount St. Joseph University in November 2014.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Lauren Hill always wanted to make a documentary chronicling her battle with an inoperative brain tumor.

WKRC-TV gave her a video camera, and she filmed herself a couple of times, at least. You'll see the footage in "#Play for 22: The Story of Lauren Hill," a new documentary by Channel 12 news anchor Brad Johansen and photo journalist Eric Gerhardt airing Thursday (7 p.m., Channel 12).

Lauren, who died a year ago, would be very pleased, says her mother Lisa Hill.

"This is an amazing piece. She would be really proud," Hill told the audience after Sunday night's screening at Kenwood Theatre. "I wish she was here to see it."

"#Play for 22" isn't a rehash of Lauren's news footage and basketball video from her public campaign to raise awareness about Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) in fall of 2014. Most of the video and interviews were never broadcast previously, drawn from hours and hours of exclusive access Johansen and Gerhardt had to Lauren and her family. Johansen called it "divine intervention" in my blog posted April 7.

It's a very intimate, inspiring, personal and sometimes funny story of a very real, normal family with a courageous teen on a mission the last six months of her life. (Lauren died April 10 last year at age 19).

Lauren Hill with WKRC-TV's Brad Johansen in 2014.
Credit Provided by Brad Johansen

You'll hear her mother, father, brother, sister, doctor and Mount St. Joseph basketball coach talk candidly in one-on-one interviews. You'll see the family talking together in their Dearborn County living room.

You'll see interviews with some of the Hiram College women's basketball players who provided the opposition at the Cintas Center for Lauren's first college basketball game on Nov. 2, 2014. (You won't hear that the Hiram team bused down here Saturday to watch a preview screening, and then immediately hopped back on the bus for the long ride back to northeast Ohio.)

You'll see Lauren on her good days, her bad days, and her final days. This is TV at its finest. This is truly Reality TV.

"#Play for 22" will be offered as a DVD to raise funds for The Cure Starts Now Foundation, Johansen says.

I hope one of the major sports networks – ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports, NBC Sports Network – pick up the film. I'd love to see it on ESPN, which spent a week with her in 2014 and honored her at the 2015 ESPYS Awards. ESPN should give her one more hour.

"#Play for 22" is  an inspirational story of how one girl in failing health changed the world. It deserves to be seen nationwide. It's that good.