A little after 8 p.m. on Oct. 14 in Yager Stadium, the overhead lights surrounding the field suddenly turned off.
Approximately one hundred people, including many current Miami University student-athletes, flicked on their red, yellow or white lanterns and started walking along the sidelines.
They did one lap, then two. The stadium lights turned back on, but some decided to take an extra lap.
The walk was part of the team’s “Light the Night” event. Sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), “Light the Night” is an event to raise awareness and funds for those affected by blood cancer.
Miami football has been actively supporting LLS since 2015. Usually, the team attends the annual “Light the Night” event in Cincinnati. This year however, LLS wanted a smaller in-person event and held a virtual event as well.
Instead, Miami’s Director of Football Operations, Matt Yoches, had the idea of holding the event in Yager Stadium for the first time.
Yoches emceed the event, telling attendees where to stand and when to turn their lanterns on.
“Yoches did an unbelievable job,” Head Football Coach Chuck Martin said.
President Gregory Crawford and his wife, Renate, were in attendance, as well as Director of Athletics David Sayler. Martin and his assistant coaches were there, along with many members of Miami’s football team. Athletes from the women’s basketball and softball teams also attended the event, among others.
“It’s just wonderful to see all the student athletes and the teams pick up the cause for cancer,” Crawford said.
Upon entering the stadium, there were two tables set up near the bleachers. One table had white paper bags with sharpies. Patrons could write the names of people close to them who had died of cancer.
After writing the name of a loved one on the bag, attendees lined up the bags on the sideline at each yard-line marker.
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Another table had red, yellow and white lanterns. The colors were symbolic: white lanterns were for cancer survivors, while yellow lanterns were for those who had lost a family member or friend to cancer. A red lantern showed solidarity to those affected by cancer.
“Cancer affects all of us,” Martin said. “... Like we tell our (players), if you haven’t dealt with it yet, you’re all gonna.”
Quintin Richardson was one of the people carrying a white lantern. Richardson, an Oxford native, was diagnosed with Philadelphia Chromosome-Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in Feb. 2016. He was just 6 years old.
A year later, Miami made Richardson an honorary member of its 2017 recruiting class.
Richardson’s father, Jake, is a Talawanda graduate who played on Miami’s football team as a punter from 2004 to 2008. Richardson is grateful for the team’s continued support of Quintin.
“It means a ton. I mean, that’s the type of support that helps build the foundation to help families get through these tough situations like that. And they’ve been there since the beginning.”
As of 2018, Richardson is cancer-free.
At 8 p.m, a message from LLS played on the video board. At the conclusion of the video, attendees were instructed to flick their lanterns on. The stadium lights turned off, and all anyone could see were red, yellow and white lights.
Everyone took a lap around the sidelines once, then twice, before the stadium lights turned on again. Patrons could walk as many laps as they wanted, but mostly people stood around and talked, soaking in the night.
“I thought it was amazing when they turned off all the lights, and you had to light up your balloon and you kinda see who’s been affected by it,” wide receivers coach Israel Woolfork said. “On a day to day basis, a lot of us in this stadium tonight may not have known that a family member or friend has passed away or has won the fight against cancer.”
While the event wasn’t originally supposed to be held in Oxford, it may have found a new home in Yager Stadium. Sayler and others have discussed plans to hold this event in Oxford, and to expand the event to people in the Oxford area.
“It would be nice if we could grow this a little bit more to the Oxford community and really have it be a larger thing,” Sayler said.
Martin envisions the event becoming not just a staple in Miami Athletics, but for the entire student population.
“(We’d) like to keep expanding on it,” Martin said. “Like, have it be a campus-wide thing where we have hundreds and hundreds of people here.”
Martin called the night “humbling, but rewarding.”
“You feel guilty, you feel appreciative … everything we take for granted,” Martin said. “You have a bad day, we all have bad days, we all have stuff we complain about … and then you come out here and you think, ‘What do I have to complain about?’”