A Fighting Spirit
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Despite not having the opportunity to take the field during her time at the University of Miami, Austen Everett’s impact on the school and so many families across the country is everlasting.
Transferring to UM in 2007, sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules, Everett was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma a year later and quickly began fighting for her life. She then jumpstarted the Austen Everett Foundation as a way to help kids battling cancer meet college and professional athletes.
Two weeks before she passed away in 2012, she saw an honorary team captain recognized through her foundation for the first time. Over the past seven years, Everett’s mother, June Leahy, has carried on the foundation, which has empowered over 650 youth programs, 60 professional and collegiate athletic programs and benefitted over 1,000 children.
“Austen was an athlete at heart and when cancer became her opponent, her competitive nature and relentless determination to destroy her illness was a page from the same playbook she had used against countless opponents on the soccer field,” Leahy said. “Austen dealt with life’s challenges though humor, kindness and determination. She saw challenges not as obstacles but as opportunities.”
Through this competitive and relentless mindset, along with the foundation’s progression it has become clear to Leahy that her daughter’s vision – “One day my foundation will be a part of every professional team and Division I university throughout the nation, so all kids with cancer can benefit from the same strength and support I experienced” – will one day be a reality.
“Austen’s vision is changing the way kids fight cancer,” Leahy said. “Recent studies confirm the positive medical benefits of experiences such as AEF’s Honorary Team Captain Program, has on kids throughout their treatment. AEF is redefining how kids walk through cancer with dignity and determination, through the power of sports.”
This summer, the Miami soccer team made renovations to their locker room, which included a framed Everett jersey to honor the former goalkeeper. On full display every time the Hurricanes leave to take the pitch, the shrine acts as reminder to keep fighting.
“It’s incredibly meaningful to have Austen’s presence in our locker room. I never met her, but in speaking with her mom and learning about Austen through her foundation, I feel privileged to know who she was,” Miami head coach Sarah Barnes said. “She was strong, smart and she cared passionately about giving back to others. Our team’s first core value is selflessness and Austen’s work exemplifies that. While battling cancer, she found a greater purpose and was on a mission to give back to those who would walk in her shoes. Austen, June, the foundation – everything they’ve put into motion was born out of their loss for the good of others. Her work is humbling and inspiring. Our team needs to know her story. Everyone needs to know Austen’s story.”
“There are no words to express my deep-felt gratitude to The U for honoring Austen in this way,” Leahy said. “To stand among the extraordinary UM athletes–to memorialize her contribution to society as an athlete–I hope it provides inspiration to future generations of athletes, expanding the scope of their platform for good.”
On Sunday, the Hurricanes will take the field against No. 12 Louisville at noon dawning pink uniforms in remembrance of Everett and celebrating survivors of cancer.
“She loved life, embracing life’s challenges along the way,” Leahy said. “Her life is now her story, her vision, her inspiration, her fight and it all lives on through her foundation.”
For more information about the Austen Everett Foundation and to join the fight today, you can visit the official website HERE.