Thousands turn out for Ohio girl's big moment

CINCINNATI, Ohio - When people lined the streets of Cincinnati yesterday, they weren't hoping for a glimpse of some prince or president. In fact, this wasn't about celebrity at all. It was about an unassuming college freshman basketball player named Lauren Hill and her attempt turn a living nightmare into a dream come true.

About a year ago Lauren was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. But instead of wallowing, she set a goal: to try and live long enough to play in her first college game here at Mount St. Joseph University. To that end, she practiced.

Even when she couldn't dribble, she tried. Even when she couldn't stand, she stayed.

"When I'm not there I feel like I'm letting people down," she said.

Lauren has weeks to live, at best and here she is worried about letting other people down.

Girl with terminal cancer living for basketball

When asked why it matters so much to her, she replied: "Because I love them. They're like my family. And they keep me going. They're what make me positive."

To make sure Lauren would get a chance to play, the NCAA moved the Mount St. Joe season opener up two weeks. They also got a bigger gym to accommodate the ten thousand people who bought tickets.

"I can't wait for her to look up into the stands, see all the people, her friends and family," said a teammate. "You're going to see it in her eyes how happy she is to finally be on the floor," said another.

"It's going to be like a really, really touching moment," said Lauren. "I'm really, really excited that so many people care enough to come and support."

Lauren Hill, center, hugs teammates after the game. CBS News

The crowd was thrilled just to see her set foot on the floor and that's really all anyone was expecting. Lauren just doesn't have the energy to run down the court more than once or twice. Which is why her teammates wasted no time. getting her the ball.

It was the first basket of the game. Lauren came in again near end and scored the last - book-ending this remarkable fairy tale.

"This is the happiest day of my life - thank you so much for your support," she told the crowd.

Hill thanks the crowd gathered to watch her play. CBS News

Like Lou Gehrig before her, Lauren Hill has found a place for joy in her personal tragedy. And although no one wants her disease, we could all use a little of what she's got.

With the time she has left Lauren is fundraising for pediatric brain cancer research.

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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.