June 7, 2011
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine
Cancer memorial takes root
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Almost every family has been touched by cancer, including Noreen Herlihy’s. The Slippery Rock University women’s soccer coach lost her father, Donal Herlihy, and said she never forgot the compassion and dignity shown by hospice workers during his illness.
As a tribute to loved ones who lost their battle with cancer, Herlihy and the SRU Athletes for Forgotten Angels group planted a Memorial Flower Garden Wednesday in front of Morrow Field House. The group plans to erect a bronze plaque as well, sponsored by Barbara Ender, vice president of University advancement. Plantings for the garden were purchased with funds raised through the group’s Memorial Garden campaign.
“It (the garden) was created to recognize and remember those from campus and beyond,” Herlihy said. “When someone you love becomes a memory, we want that memory to become a treasure. We planted the garden in front of the field house because everyone passes by that area nearly every day, and we wanted to beautify the area.
“The experience of cancer is tough on everyone in the family. That is the reason why we came together as a community to develop a garden that people can walk by and remember their loved ones,” she said.
Battling 90-plus degree weather, the group of six University volunteers planted more than 40 shrubs and landscaped the garden with black beauty mulch. They guzzled bottled water to stay hydrated. Several SRU employees walked by and shouted, “looks great.”
“We wanted to do something to help the University and community,” said Erin Street, assistant volleyball coach and a 2009 SRU graduate.
Pearl Shaffer, assistant to the athletic director, shoveled mulch from a dump trunk into a wheelbarrow. “This is a worthy cause, and we are more than willing to do our part to help the families that benefit from Forgotten Angels,” she said.
Also on hand were Laurie Lokash, head women’s volleyball coach, Bill Jordan, assistant track and field and cross-country coach, and Ashley Martin, assistant women’s soccer coach.
“We have a lot of students who are committed to community service,” Lokash said. “This is our way of pitching in and helping students when we’re always asking them to pitch in to help us.”
The garden features a circular planting box with 200 daffodil bulbs surrounding a lilac tree, eight butterfly bushes, 20 sedum and 25 phlox shrubs, purchased from a Hermitage nursery. Contributors bought groups of scrubs and flowers for $25, while the crabapple cost $180. Herlihy said she planted a butterfly bush in honor of her father.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 569,000 Americans died from cancer in 2010, with 1.5 million new cancer diagnoses, including 75,260 in Pennsylvania. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., exceeded by heart disease.
Herlihy said the idea for a memorial garden took root with the example of grace shown by the late Judy Scheidemantle, an SRU labor foreman who died from cancer in 2009. Scheidemantle was a campus gardener who took great pride on her work.
“I always admired her from a distance, her work ethic, and her flower beds were beautiful,” Herlihy said. “I know she had a long battle with cancer, so she is on my mind too as we dedicate the new garden.”
SRU Athletes for Forgotten Angels is a campus service organization advised by Herlihy and comprised of soccer, basketball, volleyball and softball players. The group has delivered school supplies to children in Haiti, collected and delivered shoes to children in St. Lucia and assisted in rebuilding efforts in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.
“We couldn’t go to Haiti this year because of a cholera outbreak,” Herlihy said. “We have some new members so this memorial will be our 2011 service project.”
Alyssa Barrett, a communication major from Rochester, N.Y. and women’s soccer player, said her grandfather, Roland Barrett, was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. He is undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
“It is horrible when you find out someone you love has cancer. Initially it is sad and you feel scared,” she said. “Once you get past the sadness, you start to fight.”
Barrett said the new garden aims to “make campus a better place and make people feel happy while reminding them of their loved ones.”
Herlihy said the garden is filled. “The response was brilliant and it didn't take long to fill the list of shrubs and flower sponsors,” she said. “A big thanks to all those who did contribute, especially John Cowan in facilities who provided great support on this project.”