Lauren was honored by her college, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, CA, by being inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame on February 18, 2016. The MC of the event was Steve Ward, head coach of the Men’s Baseball Team. Many of Lauren’s family, co-op family, and friends were in attendance to show support for Lauren. Beth Ruyak, who gave Lauren an opportunity to get her message out during two of her Insight radio broadcasts at Capital Public Radio, was in attendance also. She was at the Sochi Winter Olympics when Lauren’s Celebration of Life was held, so she felt compelled to be at the ceremony to show her support of Lauren. You could feel the love in the room.
Steve introduced Lauren with the following speech:
“I am not sure that our HOF has any members as inspirational, courageous, gracious and humble as Lauren. She attended the very first DVC Hall of Fame induction in 2006 as an 8th grader with her dad, John, who was an All-American swimmer on the 1973 State Champion swim team. Attending high school in Elk Grove, she earned varsity letters in four different sports. Then… just after she graduated she was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer, Ewing Sarcoma, in one of her quadriceps. After nine months of non-stop chemo she was told her cancer was in remission. She enrolled at DVC in the Fall of 2012 and in the Spring 2013 term joined the DVC swim team. She finished 2nd in the 50 Back and 3rd in the 100 Back at the Big 8 Conference Championships. Her times were good enough to qualify in three events at the State Championship Meet the following week in L.A. On the first day she swam the 50 Free, but complained after the race that her side hurt and that she could hardly breathe. She was in the emergency room the next day and had fluid on her lungs, which kept her out the remainder of the State meet. Soon after, Lauren learned her cancer had returned. She still attended the end of the season swimming awards dinner and found out her 50 Back time had earned All-American status.
In her last nine months she started a blog called, “Thenotdyinggirl” and her story was covered extensively by Sacramento area media. She gave anti-bullying rallies, got married, tirelessly spread the word about pediatric cancers, and was the honorary captain of the DVC Lacrosse team, who in November of 2013 held an American Cancer Benefit in her honor…In life, according to her father, she exhibited strength, humility, and a positive attitude right up until she died February 2, 2014 at the age of 21.
DVC now has the privilege to induct her for eternity into the DVC Athletic Hall of Fame…Lauren McCullough.”
Lauren’s mom then spoke about her achievements in high school swim, her positive outlook during her cancer treatment, and how her spot on the DVC swim team remaining open for her until she was able to join the team kept her motivated during her year of chemo and many hospitalizations. The coaches of the swim team treated her like she was a competitor, and not an “honorary” member of the team. That pushed Lauren to achieve so much during that season. She came incredibly close to achieving her pre-cancer personal best swim times. Like every girl, Lauren looked up to her dad. Lauren became an All-American swimmer, just like dad; swam at the State Championship Swim Meet, just like dad; and was now in the DVC Athletic Hall of Fame, just like dad.
Lauren’s dad then spoke about how DVC has been so supportive of Lauren, both during her recurrence of cancer and after she has passed away. He thanked the school for supporting her and continuing to keep her message of childhood cancer awareness out in the public. The DVC Lacrosse team continues to hold American Cancer Society benefit games every November to raise money for cancer research and honor Lauren. He spoke of how he entrusted his two most precious things in life, his two children, to the swim team and Coach Rick Millington, and thanked Coach Millington for being there for both Lauren and Mark.
This was an unforgettable event for all in attendance. In addition to hearing Lauren’s story, it was inspirational to hear the stories of the other eight inductees into the DVC Athletic Hall of Fame. She is in great company.