One Love Foundation is changing lives

On May 3, 2010, 22-year-old University of Virginia lacrosse player and senior Yeardley Reynolds Love was tragically killed in her off-campus apartment. Her former boyfriend George W. Huguely V is charged with her murder and will stand trial in February. In the wake of this violence and heartache, the Love family -- along with friends, teammates and strangers -- has turned its focus toward making the world a better place. A place in the name of Yeardley Love, and all she stood for.

"There was never a moment where she'd put herself before anyone else," said Whitaker Hagerman, who played on the UVA lacrosse team all four years with Yeardley. "The amount of effort she put into relationships made her a joy to be around. There was nothing about her that was anything but absolute beauty, grace and elegance."

The compassion and kindness Yeardley showed during her life, and the ways her memory is touching the lives of others, will be what people remember from hearing Yeardley's story. Her family is making sure of that.

In Yeardley's memory, her family has established the One Love Foundation, "One" representing the number Yeardley wore on her jersey during her UVA lacrosse career -- the number that has since been retired by the school in her memory.

"It's quite ironic that her last name was Love," Hagerman said. "I don't think there could be a more perfect name for anyone. She was the essence of the word love."

The One Love Foundation started in June 2010 as a successful fundraising effort for a new turf field at Yeardley's former high school, Notre Dame Prep in Towson, Md. But the field was only the beginning. The foundation has gone on to touch many more lives across the country. Especially the lives of athletes.

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, situated in inner-city Baltimore, lacked many of the resources that its boys' lacrosse team needed to be competitive with its suburban counterparts.

"Our boys have been surviving off of hand-me-downs for the past few years," said Matt Hanna, the head lacrosse coach. "Just to get chin straps and other things that were safe, I was running out and buying things on my teacher's salary. It was a struggle to support these kids, but I refused to tell them no."

After hearing about the team's situation, representatives from One Love met with Hanna to learn more about the challenges the student-athletes were facing. As a result of the meeting, One Love stepped in and allotted $5,000 to the Cristo Rey boys' lacrosse team for the purchase of equipment and new uniforms. While the new equipment is necessary to make the school a lacrosse contender, the coach sees the donation from One Love as a way to save the kids on his team.

He said most of his students are from low-income neighborhoods and some are teetering on the edge of joining a gang. The money Hanna has received will allow him to provide the kids with an activity that can help them stay out of trouble.

Prior to the partnership with One Love, some of Hanna's players were left watching games from the sideline because they couldn't afford contact lenses, and their helmets wouldn't fit over their glasses. With the donation from the foundation, they will be able to purchase contacts.

"What I can do with $5,000 is life-changing," Hanna said. "It's more money than we've ever seen."

The money from One Love will also allow the school to install an artificial-turf field for the winter, enabling Hanna's team to train year round. And for the first time, the team will have real lacrosse goals. Lacrosse, it seems, will be more than a sport for the athletes of Cristo Rey. It may just be a life-saver.

"[The new field] is going to provide an activity to get these kids off the street," Hanna said. "Now I can say, 'Meet me at the turf on Saturday afternoon.'"

The One Love Foundation is also keeping Hanna's team members in school. He plans to use part of the money to take them on a trip to New York City to give them an opportunity to see a different part of the country.

"I had a meeting with a student who failed off the team last year," he said. "I said to him, 'One thing I'm working on is a trip to New York City.' His eyes lit up. Without lacrosse, he wouldn't want to be in school. Without One Love, he wouldn't want to play lacrosse in college."

The team will also be receiving jackets or sweatshirts -- the first time they've had any type of apparel to wear off the field.

"It makes them feel like all the other teams," Hanna said. "They'll want to stay in school because they'll want to wear that jacket with pride."

Hanna is determined to make sure his players know why they're receiving the new gear.

"The kids will know where this is coming from," he said. "They will wear this stuff with honor and pride. They're going to be educated on Yeardley's life, and we're going to make sure we carry on her memory."

In return for everything the Cristo Rey lacrosse players are receiving, the students will honor Yeardley's memory by fulfilling the foundation's requirement that they perform community service with the elderly in their neighborhood.

"We want life lessons to be included," said Sharon Love, Yeardley's mother, who helps run the foundation along with other family members.

In addition to bringing lacrosse to inner cities, the One Love Foundation is honoring those who play the sport at the next level.

In only a year's time, the foundation has raised more than $1 million, with donations rolling in from those of all ages. Sharon's best friend from first grade has three nieces, ages 4, 8 and 12, who one day presented Sharon with a donation of $13.12 -- all the money they'd raised from their lemonade stand.

"It's shocking how many people have joined in," Sharon said. "It gives you a lot of faith in mankind. I'm just overwhelmed."

While One Love is touching lives across the country, it seems the people the foundation is helping the most are those who were closest to Yeardley: her family.

"We're trying to stay positive," Sharon said. "The foundation has helped us a lot because we're doing something for Yeardley all the time. I was so proud of her when she was here, and I want to spread that pride now that she's gone."

The foundation's programs also constantly remind Yeardley's friends of her remarkable spirit and zest for life.

"On the field, she was a teammate you could only hope to play with," Hagerman said. "Whether you were playing against her in practice or with her in a game, she inspired everyone to fight to the end. She never gave up. I'll always remember how much fight she had in her."

But it's the moments off the field that Hagerman will miss most about Yeardley.

In the locker room before each game, teammates took turns doing a cheer to pump up the team, Hagerman said. It was customary that the person would count to three, then shout the cheer. When Yeardley's turn came around, she shouted, "One-two-three-four."

While the team was caught off guard by Yeardley's counting to four instead of three, the introduction became a team tradition.

"From then on out, we counted to four," Hagerman said. "To this day, the team still counts to four in all of the huddles. Yeardley loved to do little pranks here and there."

While her pranks would often give her teammates a good chuckle, Hagerman said that there was no better laugh in the world than Yeardley's giggle.

"She would always try and hide it," Hagerman said. "You could hear her and not know what she was laughing about, but it made you smile. I'd have my headphones on, and I'd hear her laugh, and I'd start laughing because she was."

Soon a statue of Yeardley will stand tall in Baltimore's Meadowood Regional Park, a constant reminder of a life well lived, although cut too short. It will carry on the memory of Yeardley Reynolds Love every day, just like the One Love Foundation.

To make a contribution to the One Love Foundation in memory of Yeardley Love, visit joinonelove.org.