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Hawks teammates stand strong

By Vickie Fulkerson

Publication: The Day

Published August 22. 2012 4:00AM
Smith, Mars-Garrick help organize 'Walk for Weaver' on Sept. 8

Amanda Weaver was captain of the University of Hartford women's basketball team her senior season, then remained on campus throughout last year while she pursued her Doctor of Physical Therapy.

That's what Montville's Nikka Smith, who was a freshman when Weaver was a junior, will tell you about her former teammate. Weaver was there for everyone.

"Oh, yes. Without a doubt. She held her arms open to me," Smith said this week. "She would tell us everything we need."

It was earlier this year that Weaver, who is now at home in York, Pa., undergoing treatment, was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Her teammates were shocked - "A few of us have had different experiences with things like this, but that was with older people. She's so young," Smith said.

"Heartbreaking," said North Stonington's Keyokah Mars-Garrick, who also played along with Weaver at Hartford, graduating in 2012. "To talk about it, it just used to make me cry. It just hurt. Now it makes me proud to fight there with her."

Smith and Mars-Garrick are just a few of Weaver's ex-teammates who have organized the "Walk for Weaver," which will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8 at the University of Hartford's Reich Family Pavilion. The cost is $10 per person and the proceeds will go directly to Weaver to offset the cost of her treatment. Smith said she's hoping Weaver will be able to travel to Connecticut for the event.

That's what Mars-Garrick meant when she talked about fighting along with her former teammate.

From the time a group of players traveled to Weaver's home to visit her and Weaver's main concern was their hospitality, the young women knew they had to do something to help.

"She has such an amazing personality. She's such a spitfire and she has so much fight in her," Mars-Garrick said. "She doesn't give up. I don't know if anyone else would have dealt with it with such grace. She's just an amazing woman.

"She'll never ask you for a handout. That's why we're proud to be fighting with her, fighting for her, and I hope she can accept it as our gratitude and love."

According to Hartford sports information contact Dan Ruede, the players have done all the legwork for the walk themselves, including contacting public safety, speaking with the president of the university, etc. The only thing the players are not allowed to handle, per NCAA policy, is the payment process, though they've taken turns combing the businesses of the city soliciting donations.

"The University of Hartford is such a large extended family," said Smith, who returns for her senior year. "We wrote different letters. We broke it up into districts. ... One of the biggest things at our school: the professors know each one of us. They go out of their way to be helpful when we need their support."

Weaver, a 6-foot-1 guard/forward, although a role player, helped Hartford to four postseason bids in her career, three NCAA tournament bids. She is a graduate of York Catholic High School, where she left as the all-time leading scorer with 1,780 points.

This past year, Weaver always stopped by to see her former teammates and would ask Mars-Garrick how her senior season was going. That's why Mars-Garrick is committed to making this "Walk for Weaver" a success.

"It's always teammates first," Mars-Garrick said. "We're so close on the court and that carries on to off the court."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

For more information on the "Walk for Weaver," visit http://hartfordhawks.com/news/2012/7/16/WBB_0716121312.aspx

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