AUGUSTA, GA. (WFXG) - Two years ago, 18-year-old Dixie Hill’s grandfather, 72-year-old Virgil Widener Sr., lost his battle with lung cancer on her 16th birthday.
“He was the most important person in my life, to me and cancer just ruined everything," Hill said through tears.
Hill’s family isn’t alone. More than 150,000 families go through their own battles each year.
“It’s hard knowing that there’s people all over the place that go through the same thing we did. Every single day," Hill said.
That’s why it was important for her senior project to make an impact. She and her mentor, Coach Michael Leverette, organized five youth softball teams to play in a 2-day, fast pitch tournament. The goal being to show how the sport teaches core values, like hard work and discipline.
The tournament also raised awareness and money for cancer research.
“Everybody has someone died from cancer so everybody’s giving back,” said Coach Michael Leverette, Dixie’s mentor.
Dixie donated the proceeds from ticket sales to the Georgia Cancer Center.
It’ll go into the general fund towards preventing and finding a cure for the deadly disease.
The Georgia Cancer Center’s Director of Cancer Information and Awareness Christine O’Meara said, “This is so important to engage our community, to honor someone who had cancer and to take that sorrow and that experience and convert it into something really that the community can rally behind.”
A former softball player herself, O’Meara said physical activity is very important to maintain a healthy weight and body, and maintaining a healthy weight reduces a person’s cancer risk. She said the tournament exemplified the team approach to addressing and preventing cancer. The leading cause of lung cancer, O’Meara said, is tobacco use and smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, disability and disease in the U.S. She encouraged people who do use tobacco to stop.
Dixie said what inspires her most about this event is helping the girls and seeing them have fun.
“When we play softball it makes me feel happy and it makes me even happier when we know that it’s for a good cause, for cancer,” said 11-year-old Abbigayle Hillman, who plays for the East Georgia Red Devils.
Dixie said she hopes all 75 girls playing - and everyone in the stands - knows this tourney is more than just a game.
The tournament raised $2,623.15 for the Georgia Cancer Center.
The Harlem High School student makes her board presentation for her senior project in the Spring and after graduation, she plans to study diagnostic medical sonography at Augusta Tech.