Friends remembered 19-year-old Maddie Hill on Thursday as a great friend and a tenacious person who inspired the Dover community and beyond.
Hill, a 2015 graduate of Dover High School and a former member of the girls’ varsity soccer team, died Thursday after her third battle with cancer, a fight that made her a rallying point for the girls' soccer team as well as the larger community.
“She was an amazing person. She always had a smile on her face,” said Brooke May, who played soccer with Hill at Dover. “She always made you want to play your hardest. She was my inspiration all through high school.”
Hill was an inspiration to many people in the Dover community, as well across York County. Her tenacity in the face of adversity resonated.
Hill was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, when she was 8 years old. In 2013, after celebrating five years of being cancer free, Hill developed a blood disorder with her bone marrow called myelodysplastic syndrome.
She received a bone morrow transplant later that year and recovered, but her one-year check showed that the MDS had returned.
Through all of it, though, Hill persevered.
“She had her dreams and her plans, and she was going to college,” said Dover soccer coach Bret Altimore. “She was doing the things that she wanted to do. She wasn’t going to let that affect her any more than it had to. That’s what I had noticed and she was just going to go ahead and do her thing.”
The Dover soccer team rallied around her. Soccer was a huge part of Hill’s life, having played from a young age and then having success in high school. She helped lead Dover to its first YAIAA championship in 2012.
Hill also served as the inspiration for their league championship the following year.
“I feel like part of her wanting to fight so hard to beat cancer was so that she could play (soccer) again,” said Abby Patterson, who has known Hill since they were in kindergarten. “Since we all knew she would do anything to be in our shoes we knew that we had to play as best as we could. And be a team and just fight as hard as we could for her cause she was fighting as hard as she could.”
Hill’s fight — which spurred the hashtag #FightLikeHill — not only rallied the teammates she played with, but also the communities around her. Numerous fundraisers were held in support of the Hill family, she for many years she was part of Penn State University’s annual THON dance-a-thon fundraiser for childhood cancer.
Penn State's Phi Mu sorority adopted the Hills as one of their THON families.
“There are no words to describe the heartbreak that the THON Community is feeling from the loss of Maddie Hill,” said Brittany Robbins, the Family Relations Director for THON 2017. “She was a beautiful, young girl who fought continuously with the biggest and brightest smile. Maddie's energy and high spirits brightened up every room she walked in, which enabled her to inspire and motivate so many during her short time on earth. She never once complained about her journey and graciously gave back to other Four Diamonds children as a Penn State York THON Volunteer.”
Hill’s generosity and willingness to help others isn’t a surprise to the people who knew her best.
Her friends described Hill as someone who always had a smiled on her face and who would be there for anyone that needed her.
“She definitely made you feel wanted," said Maxine Herman, another teammate. “She'd be there for you 24/7. She was always my go-to girl. Just always making you smile, making you laugh, generous. Any characteristic that was good it described Maddie Hill."
Patterson added: “She didn’t have to know people if she just saw people upset. Or if needing a friend, she was always the first one to ask what was wrong.”
Over the course of the day on Thursday, people took to social media to show their support for the Hill family and Remember Maddie Hill. Friends, family and the community will have a chance to share their memories of her Friday night. A candlelight vigil is scheduled for 9 p.m. at Dover Area High School.
"It's just a time for everybody to come as one and remember Maddie when she was here with us," said Herman, who is organizing the vigil.
On Thursday, some of her friends couldn’t pick just one memory of Hill because there were so many they'll cherish. But for the girls who got to play soccer with her, the sport will hold a special place in their hearts.
“Soccer will always be a very good memory for all of us that got to play with her,” Patterson said.
Vigil scheduled for Friday
What: A candlelight vigil for friends and family to remember Maddie Hill.
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Turf field at Dover High School