To celebrate this time of giving and sharing, Fairfield University Athletics looks back on a year of community service by its student-athletes. Eleven stories will be featured through the end of the month, showcasing the student-athletes commitment to Service for Others.
stood at the microphone before her tennis match and shared. It wasn't easy to share her experience but it was important to her. And so with much emotion, she spoke to her teammates and fans about her fight with cancer. But as difficult as speaking in front of the public can be, it paled in comparison to the difficulty she faced when she was diagnosed with cancer as a child.
"When I gave my speech, it was bit raw but it meant a lot to me that I could share my story with teammates," Lombardi said. "I think it helped to show how cancer impacts everyone even a seemingly normal college student-athlete like me."
For the last few years, Fairfield University athletics sponsored Herd For A Cure, a collection of games that are designated by athletic teams that help raise funds and awareness for cancer. During those games, t-shirts are sold, auctions are held, and money is solicited all with the hope of bringing a cure to cancer closer. The Norma Pfriem Breast Center has been one of recipients of these funds as well as the benefactor of the awareness campaign.
But on this day, the t-shirts, the auctions, and the solicitations were not even a thought in the minds of those who watched Lombardi reveal her emotions while she told her story of surviving her encounter with the disease. While the athletic department initiative has provided insight to cancer, it could never touch the emotional story of one of its own.
"Stags tennis has been involved with Herd for the Cure for a couple of years now," Lombardi said. "Participating in this cause is important to me because as a child, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I have been in remission for 14 years now. I know the feeling that survivors have gone through, fighting for their lives. I know the scared feeling of what will happen next and I know the amazing feeling of finally winning a battle that seemed endless at the time."
Lombardi was one of Fairfield athletics own so it made the countless hours of preparation by the tennis teams and all the other athletic teams worth the effort. Every team has participated in the department's Herd for the Cure campaign since its inception a few years ago. The awareness is just as important to the student-athletes as the money raised is because education leads to detection and prevention which is so vital when dealing with cancer.
"I think all the teams embrace this cause because it's such a universal issue," Lombardi said. "It translates to everyone because unfortunately everyone has been affected by cancer. Whether it's a family member, friend, or a teammate, we all have someone who has fought against cancer or is still involved in the fight."
Herd For A Cure is one of many ways that Fairfield University student-athletes and administration reach out to the surrounding community, hoping to make a difference in the lives of others. It's for that reason that the athletic department as a whole logs thousands of hours of community service each year.
"For me, participating in service projects make me truly feel like I make an impact," Lombardi said. "It doesn't matter if it is just one life that you are affecting because I was that one life. I fought for my life but I had the support of many people including volunteers who had a hand in brightening my day. When you are in such a state, it's the little things that keep you going, and that's why I think service projects like these are so important. They make you feel less alone as if you other people fighting with you or as if you have an entire herd behind you."
The tennis team, like all Fairfield athletic teams which are involved with Herd For A Cure, tried to create inventive ways of passing along the message by creating awareness in new and unique ways. Rather than just use t-shirts, the Stags tennis teams used another piece of garb to bring attention to the program and its cause.
"My team competed in a Herd For A Cure match as other teams had done during the year," Lombardi said. "We decided to wear pink wristbands in addition to wearing t-shirts for the match. I also wanted to tell about my encounter with cancer."
Her message was one that her teammates are very glad she was willing to share.