Can you possibly know someone you’ve never met?
A memory from Mom, stories told, can’t forget.
Classmates & teammates with memories galore
that describe this young Angel they all so adore.
A gesture, a hustle, lemonade from her brother,
A legacy, a life, a girl like no other.
Her legendary Goal, spectators blessed just to see,
Opposition players still honor number #3.
Angels Army came to know her as her legacy grew,
We must build a playground ‘long side John n Sue.
Her family and friends became part of mine
So in no time at all in her honor, kids climb.
The impact of angels is pure, undeniable,
And the signs sent from Hannah became so reliable.
No matter where in the world we watch the sun rise
And no matter the weather that may cloud our eyes.
We’re trained now to smile through our trouble and sighs
Overhead we’re inspired by great “Hannah Skies”
‘Cause she told mom she’d be there as rays burst through the clouds.
And now her story continues, no doubt she is proud.
Your family has honored you with such bravery and grace.
Even we who’ve not met you nor ever seen your face
Know you and love you for the inspiration you give.
So, in the skies, in our minds and our hearts you will live.
So, how can I know someone I’ve never met?
Guess her story’s too big for the Skies to forget!
--Bill Lavin, Founder, Where Angels Play Foundation
To know how much our Hannah is loved and remembered is such a gift to our family. Collating all of these heartfelt stories has been a journey of love for me this past month, and brought back floods of memories - of course, some very sad and difficult but many more that were happy and joyous. That's the legacy of our girl, she just exuded love and joy regardless of the circumstances, and that was a theme of many of the shared stories -- her joy for life, and, of course, that laugh. Oh, how I miss that belly laugh, it was one of a kind but Robbie has a giggle very much like hers too and it always makes me smile.
While we miss our girl more than words could ever express, we are also comforted by the signs she continues to send...it could be the time of day (9:11 or any 11th minute of the day), a special song, a butterfly, or the rays of sunshine through the clouds. So many signs, and we're so grateful she shows us that she'll always be with us.
Tomorrow, I will be sharing something very special from a dear friend to close out the month, one whom was sent to us directly from Hannah...there's really no other explanation, an angel connection. Through Hannah and the legacy of her life, we have gained another incredible family, actually an "angels army" family, and for that we are so blessed. More on that tomorrow, but for now, THANK YOU to everyone for following along this month.
From here to heaven, we love you baby girl, forever and always.
“Every man has two deaths, when he is buried in the ground and the last time someone says his name. In some ways men can be immortal.” – Earnest Hemmingway
There are few memories that I hold as dear as the ones I made because of Hannah. The positive impression she left on the world planted the seeds of inspiration that would one day grow into peaceful actions and honest hearts. My relationship with Hannah was unique, as I feel I was able to understand the type of person she was by seeing the impact she has left on everyone around her. This great kindness, a gift to everyone she met, evolved into a legacy that culminated into something much greater than the sum of its parts.
Through continuing Hannah’s Legacy, I was able to experience some of the greatest joys in my life. The day when Where Angels Play came to Tinton Falls holds an especially dear place in my heart as I had never seen something so generous occur. Our community had been blessed with a testament to Hannah in the most appropriate fashion. It was because of these acts of kindness that I was able to pay it forward and continue this cycle of good deeds. Sometimes during these charitable moments I can see Hannah so clearly in my head that it’s like she is standing right next to me.
While participating in a car wash at Hannah’s playground, Bill Lavin, the founder of Where Angels Play, noticed their flag had become tattered at the edges and needed to be replaced. I jumped at the opportunity to ask for it, and it stays hung up in my room. I can feel Hannah watching over me through it, just as she does to the children enjoying themselves at her playground.
I try to remember and honor Hannah in subtle ways that make me feel closer to her. I often find myself playing with my DuffysATuffy bracelet that you will find on my wrist. During one of the casino nights that was held, I was blessed enough to win a blanket stitched together with all of the tee shirts created by the Hannah Duffy Foundation. More recently, it's hard to not think about her when I ride my skateboard around her playground and enjoy the park.
Hannah’s legacy is something that many people have yet to be touched by. Especially during this past year, the world has a desperate need for positivity and light. This is not a struggle that any one person can defeat, however, it has already begun. Through wonderful causes like The Hannah Duffy Foundation and Where Angels Play we can continue this cycle of good deeds and caring for our neighbor. There are many things that I have yet to experience, but I know that somehow Hannah’s legacy stays with me and keeps me going. Happy Birthday to you Hannah and thank you for the memories I haven’t made yet.
Seven and a half years. It’s funny how time works — how a lot has happened in seven and a half years, but some things remain the same. I write that with a smile because one of those precious things that has remained untouched is my memory of my sweet friend, gone too soon: Hannah.
In my mind, Hannah is frozen in time — alive and well, eternally ebullient, and soulful beyond her years. And what a gift that is, because since September 26, 2013, not a day has gone by without her crossing my mind. Sometimes it’s obvious. I hear a giggle that reminds me of her laugh or see a little girl with half of her fiery energy (half is about as close as I’ve gotten to encountering anyone with a spirit quite like Hannah’s). Other days, it’s a quieter reminder. A reality check when life gets hard. Her memory never fails to bring me back down to earth.
I remember Hannah for her positivity, intentionality, and resilience — three principles that helped me build my life after Hannah’s death. Little did I know that I’d continue learning from her well beyond our years together.
I’d remain positive in difficult situations because she dealt with the worst of the worst but never stopped smiling. I’d say “yes” more than “no” because I learned the value of life at a young age. No challenge too daunting, no adventure out of reach. She pushes me to see the world — really see the world, work harder than anyone else in the room, be discerning in friendships (because she was the best friend), love without conditions, and live without regrets. I am resilient because of a simple question that I often ask myself when life is less than perfect: “what would Hannah do?” And the answer is always: be grateful that I get to keep going.
At 13, I promised myself that I would do my best to make her proud. At 22, I wish she was here. I wish we could experience the adventures together. I wish we could giggle about boys over a glass of wine. I wish I knew what college she would have gone to – what she would have studied, how her career would unfold. I think she would be playing soccer, probably laughing at the girls in sororities, and studying something that would jumpstart a career of helping others.
Above all, I wish I could see the amazing woman that she turned out to be, but I find peace in knowing part of that amazing woman lives in me.
Thank you, Hannah.
Sometimes you don’t have to be the best of friends to have a special bond with someone. That was the case with Hannah and me. We met through a mutual friend and would see each other at parties. It was the summer of my freshman year, at St. John Vianney High School, when I heard the news of Hannah being sick. It really surprised me because you never think one of your friends could have cancer.
When I heard the news of Hannah’s passing, I didn’t know what to do. My family and I tried to do whatever we could to help Hannah’s family. A few weeks after she passed, I went to order my Varsity jacket. I had the number 3 put on my sleeve in a way to honor Hannah’s memory. Purple was Hannah’s favorite color, and she sends me signs with it. The day of my Senior Prom, when I went to pick up my date’s corsage, to my surprise it was resting on a piece of purple tissue paper. I knew Hannah was looking down on me so I tucked that piece of paper in my jacket pocket and took Hannah to prom.
As the years have passed, I have not forgotten my friend and feel closer to her than ever. The number 3 seems to pop up at times when I need it to. When I moved to Nashville, TN, for my first job, the apartment I rented was 315 on the 3rd floor. Most recently when I went to get my Covid 19 Vaccines, every station that I went to was number 3. I have had my own health issues and I know Hannah has been there to help me through them. Although I wish Hannah was here, to know she has my back is comforting. Sue, John, Robbie, Rita, Mike and the rest of Hannah’s family are like family to us.
I will always do whatever I can to help keep Hannah’s wish of never being forgotten, and try my best to live up to her motto of "Live with no regrets, Love with Compassion, Be Kind, and Never Ever Give up that Fighting Spirit..."
Happy 22nd number 3!!!
You girl, are proof that energy is contagious!
You hear stories on the news about the relationship between students and teachers and how powerful they are, but you never realize how impactful that relationship can be until YOU live it.
I was the LUCKY ONE to have THAT kind of relationship with Hannah.
My girl Hannah had the ability to light up a room. She exuded confidence, she smiled brighter than the sun, she was hysterical and everyone's favorite!!! (unless you were on the opposing soccer team!)
For three years, I was her teacher and coach. We worked hard, but more importantly we laughed harder. From day one we connected and nothing was going to break that. She was the light in my day, the leader on the soccer field and I knew she was going to change the world and just like that she did.
Hannah, you lived life like you ruled the world. Every action you took was a life lesson. I carry each of them with me every day!!!
Some ways to live like Hannah:
Be tough. Live every day with the excitement of a championship game day.
Live like you got nothing to lose!!! Focus on what you can GAIN!
Don’t forget to take that shot even if it’s scary!
If you want to hear determination, ask anyone about Hannah’s OT soccer goal for the Tinton Falls Panthers playoff game!!! Every time I think of your scoring goal 2 weeks after brain surgery, I celebrate the feeling of success! That day you played fearlessly for you and your team. That moment was my proudest coach moment!
Trade shoes. (Literally) If the shoe doesn’t fit for the situation you’re in, kick ‘em off and lace up the right ones. Never say no to the things that bring you joy just cause you aren’t wearing the right shoes.
I’ll never forget that day you came to school with UGGS on. You planned on sitting out and talking your way into a 100 for the day. Instead, you swapped shoes with ME so you could get on the court and own the physical education floor hockey game. Needless to say, you easily got that 100!
With a smile on, dance, walk, skip into every room like you own it.
Every single time she walked into the gym, on to the soccer field, or when I would visit her, she had that same smile, that would be so stinking contagious that you had no choice but to be in that same awesome mood. (her one-liners never hurt the situation either!!)
I say this all of the time but your energy is still contagious. Here’s why-- if you ever need an attitude adjustment, a motivational moment to inspire you, just think or talk about Hannah, share your story about her because when someone so young lives so powerfully, her story is all we need to live by to keep making this world a better place.
Hannah, I will always be your Tuffy!!! Happy Birthday #3! Love ya always!
A little background first...
I've always been a firm believer that there are NO coincidences in this life...and for today's story I wanted to share a very special essay we received from an applicant for the Hannah Duffy Memorial Scholarship back in 2018. Reading this for the first time was truly a moment that has forever changed our lives for the better. The year we made the decision to expand the Hannah Duffy Memorial Community Service Scholarship program to all graduating seniors within Monmouth County was when we received this essay -- remember the no coincidences? As you read on, you will understand exactly why there are no coincidences, just moments that are 'meant to be'. Students are required to write an essay as part of our application process, and this story revolves around one of those essays.
Before I share this beautiful essay, we need to go back to the beginning, to when Hannah was first diagnosed with brain cancer. I remember sitting in a conference room in the hospital with her oncology team just days after her biopsy surgery in early October 2012 and heard words that still haunt me to this day ("malignant, anaplastic astrocytoma, gliomatosis cerebri, terminal," and much more I can't even remember now since I think I stopped listening after I heard the word terminal...) – but, after hearing all the bad news the very first question that came out of my mouth was, “can she still play soccer?” The news itself was devastating enough but to have to go back into her room and tell her that she could never play again was more than I could bear. Her oncologist made a deal with her – as long as she felt up to it, she could play, but she had to promise to wear protective head gear and no headers. She agreed, no headers, if it meant she would be allowed back on the field! And, back on the field she went, on October 17th, 2012, just seventeen days after brain surgery. After so much heartbreak and stress, just to see Hannah suited up and on the field with her friends and teammates that day was enough for us. But, it wasn’t enough for her – she was determined to play, and no one was going to stop her.
Maggie's beautiful essay...
"On October 17, 2012 I woke up feeling very special. Like every other birthday, my family showered me with gifts before I left for school. At school my friends decorated my locker. After school I had a soccer game at a nearby town. Soccer was my life then and still is today, I love the game. In my head this was going to be the most perfect birthday; it was our last game of an amazing undefeated season, I was the captain of the team, and we were playing Tinton Falls who had a losing record. However, this game seemed different, starting with the unusually large crowd. Most games that season we would blow teams away, but it was halftime and we were tied 1-1 to one of the last teams in the division. The next 35 minutes flew by and much to my surprise we were going into overtime, golden goal. Within the first five minutes, Tinton Falls gained possession of the ball, played it over top to a forward, who took the ball out of the air and attacked our goal.
That was it, she scored and the whole crowd erupted, and ran onto the field swarming the hero, Hannah Duffy.
As I walked off the field with my head down, I could not stop thinking about how that was supposed to be me. I wanted to be the girl that scored the winning goal, it was my birthday and I wanted to be the hero. After shaking hands, I sadly walked over towards my family, where Tinton Falls continued to celebrate their amazing win. My Mom, Dad, Aunt, Uncle and cousins all stood there waiting to wish me a happy birthday. At this point my eyes were filled with tears and I was about to break down. My mom, with tears in her eyes, hugged me and whispered in my ear, “Don't you dare cry for losing this game, the girl who scored that goal, has a brain tumor, that goal was a miracle”. My heart sank and my body went numb. My entire being went into absolute emotional confusion. In one single nanosecond, my entire life changed. I went from self-pity, “Why me?” to shock and confusion, "That really cannot happen to someone my age”, to embarrassment and guilt and then to extreme sadness, “Why her, #3, Hannah Duffy?“ Later on, I found out that this was the first game that Hannah was allowed to participate in since her brain surgery. The following September Hannah passed away, and in her obituary it mentioned that one of her favorite moments was scoring the game winning goal.
From that game on my life changed; in school when I walked the halls, I noticed faces that I never did before. I used to be content with being the stereotypical cool, popular athlete. The cold reality that someone my age could die, made my whole life flash in front of me. I wanted to use my remaining years of school to personally get to know all 286 kids in my class, no matter if they were in the band, school play, or engineering club. In high school I became class president. I tried to learn more about my classmate's interests and passions. This has allowed me to make friendships that will last a lifetime with people I didn't even know existed before that day. Reaching out to each and every student has allowed my class to grow and meld as one, which is rarely seen in high schools. My entire class has learned to appreciate everyone's passions, creating friendships between the so called “jocks” and “nerds”. I learned to find something I like about each and every person I encounter and stop noticing the differences. I view the world differently because of Hannah and I often think about her and pray for her family.
For years, we've always talked about that 'miracle game' and what a gift it was for Hannah & her teammates, but until the moment I read this essay, I never stopped to think about those girls on the opposing team, how they must have felt. I literally sobbed when I read this the first time (and many times since), and it shows the true character of another young girl who went on to be a leader within her school and had her life changed because of one fateful game all those years ago. We had the honor of meeting Maggie and awarded her with our "Most Impactful Essay" scholarship that year. She is now a junior in college, and still playing soccer, the sport she also loves so much!
It is so rare to find someone so young and so wise, yet so fresh and informed. Hannah’s aura shined through any dark room, gloomy day, bad game, or social event just by remaining positive no matter what. She was someone who constantly put others before herself, despite her situation, and continues to put others first through the little signs she sends every day.
I first met Hannah on our soccer team, the Neptune Stingrays. I was intimidated by her because at such a young age, she was so passionate and good at soccer. (I, on the other hand, could care less about soccer as I was more worried about annihilating my teammates in games like high-lo piccolo on the sidelines). All that changed when I met her. Anyone who knew her, knew she had a competitive spark like no one else, and was an athlete way before her time. Hannah was someone that could go into the game last minute, score 2-3 goals, and then come off the field mad that she couldn't do more. She made it look SO EASY at the same time. She gave one hundred and ten percent until the very last whistle even if we were losing.
One memory I have with Hannah, that I will never forget, is playing with her after she got diagnosed with cancer. She came to our tournament ready to go like nothing at all was happening outside of soccer. I remember her reassuring our team it was going to be okay because she had a concussion prevention headband. Our coaches at the time only put her in for a few minutes out of fear she might go too hard, and hurt herself. Of course, this upset her, but this memory proves the type of fierce character she had. She was someone who embraced everything head on and treated cancer like it had a jersey and was the competition. When God blew the last whistle, and Hannah received her wings, (which were probably soccer ball themed or purple) our team became a huge family bonded by the impact she left upon us. We wore blue and purple socks, ribbons in our hair, stitched the number 3 patch on our jerseys, and screamed, “Hannah on three”, before and after every game. We continued to play for her, and became an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.
It’s insane to think she feared being forgotten. She made a mark on the world that couldn’t be erased. I strive to be like her every day. In her worst moments, she emanated warmth and love and spread it like wildfire. I carry this and her with me every day and try to be a better daughter, sister, friend, athlete, and student because you never truly know whose life you are going to change, and I am so happy she changed mine.
Hannah was an amazing young woman! Her strength, faith, and courage is inspiring for everyone and her story has touched so many lives!
I first met Hannah at a Funcky Family Christmas. Now any family event is a lot to handle for anyone coming to meet the family, but a Christmas is an overload! Hannah was always full of energy, so she fit right in with all of us girls. I remember Uncle John and Aunt Sue trying to leave and they had to literally drag her out of there because she was having so much fun!
One of the things that I can vividly remember about Hannah is her laugh. She was always so full of happiness and laughter. Even when she was sick she always seemed to be smiling!
I remember the day I found out Hannah was sick. I was studying abroad in Italy and I was on my computer and I saw Aunt Sue's post. I thought no, this can't be true! I just wanted to get back on a plane and come give her a hug. Knowing that it was not possible to do that, I thought of a different way to try and help her. Almost every weekend we would travel and I would always end up in a church. I prayed for her in every single church I visited. The moment I knew God had this was when I went into St. Peter's Basilica and we ended up in the third row for mass that morning. For those of you that don't know Hannah's soccer number was 3, so that was my sign that no matter what everything would be okay.
The last day I saw Hannah, at her celebration of life party, she still had the biggest smile on her face the entire time! She is the strongest person I know. In hard times she never gave up and always saw the positive. I know she is still here with us today, because every once and a while I ask her to send me a sign. Within the next few hours, a sign does show up, whether it is a song that reminds me of her, the time on a clock, or butterflies flying in front of me. Hannah has become a guardian angel for us and I love knowing that she is still here guiding and protecting us! Happy 22nd birthday Hannah!
I can still remember the first time I met Hannah. It was Christmas Eve at “The Funcky Family’s” house, and if you’ve never been to one of our holidays, it can be overwhelming because there are just so many of us! It was present time and everyone took their positions. I remember wanting to make Hannah feel included so I told her she could sit next to me and “baby” Julia Funck (who’s now taller than me). She fit so easy in our big family!
Fast forward a few years, I was on the bus coming home from cheerleading camp and my mom texted me that she was going to visit Hannah at her house. I immediately told her to wait until I got home, so I went to see her fresh off the bus in my cheerleading uniform. Something came over me when I got to my Aunt Sue and Uncle John’s house, I immediately got into bed with her where she was laying and we talked about tons of silly stories and just things to make us happy. There’s one in particular moment I’ll never forget, when my mom told Hannah about my “driver’s Ed” experience with her and how I pulled into the garage.....and just kept on going. I ran over all our beach chairs, all the umbrellas, my mom was screaming “that could’ve been a person!” That story in particular had Hannah to the point of crying laughing.
I was a junior in high school when Hannah passed and now I’m going to be 25 in April. The years have flown by and now I’ve had my own experience with being in the hospital at 19 years old. In my hospital bed I remember thinking about how strong Hannah must’ve been during that time and I still smile and think about Hannah when the clock reads 9:11 (one of her special signs). The years will go by but there will always be little signs of Hannah to make us smile, and we always have a cheerleader of our own in heaven to pray to when we need a little help.
Hannah and I became friends in 6th grade. I was still sort of new to public school, as I had transferred in the year before, and I was nervous about being in different classes from the friends I had made. Hannah, with her kind heart and outgoing persona, befriended me in Mr. Harvey’s class. I remember her being the goofball of the class, and always laughing at her jokes and silly antics. We bonded over a silly show on Nickelodeon, House of Anubis, that we were both heavily invested in. We would watch the new episodes weekly and come into class excited to talk about the plot and to theorize what was going to happen. I am so thankful for that show, because it helped bring me closer to such an amazing friend. The worries about not fitting in and not making friends went away because someone as great as Hannah wanted to be friends with me and that was enough to give me confidence. She opened me up to a whole new group of people and helped me make friends I would have been too shy to befriend before that. She was spontaneous and everything with her was an adventure.
One of my favorite adventures with her was going to the “abandoned farm” in the woods behind her house with a bunch of our friends. It was creepy and I was intimidated, but Hannah just wanted to explore it. She was so confident and so brave, and I was envious of that. I wanted to be like her because she was always smiling and making people smile. That day at the farm, while we were exploring, we heard a car drive up and all of us ran. It felt like something in a movie, and while running, someone tripped and fell into a small stream. The adrenaline was coursing through my blood like never before, and I was terrified but also had never felt more alive. We all came tumbling out of the woods, looked at each other, and could not stop laughing. Hanging out with Hannah was always exciting like that and full of laughter. Every single moment I spent with her is one I treasure, and I always wish there were more. I think about her every single day, and a lot of the time, the pain in my heart is still there.
We’re all growing up, graduating and becoming adults, and she deserved to do that with us. I know God had another plan for her, but I miss her and wish it were different. She was someone I admired in 6th grade and that hasn’t changed. I try to live my life how she would live hers, without regrets and with love and compassion. Hannah was and will always be the strongest person I have ever known, with the biggest heart too. She was a beautiful girl, inside and out, and I am so lucky to have been able to call her my friend. I know she’s out there watching somewhere, and I really hope she knows how much she was loved.
Sue’s additional comments:
I feel Hannah’s presence with me every day, but some days her signs are stronger than others. One day last week, I was in Hannah’s room looking for a notecard. I keep a box of cards in her closet and while in there I happened to look at the necklaces that are hanging on a rack on the closet wall – I haven’t touched them in years, but for some reason I picked up and opened the homemade necklace Hannah had made – she had been obsessed with a show she would watch with two of her girlfriends, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the show, but I clearly remember her working so hard on this specific necklace, and she was so proud when she finished. Inside the necklace was the word “Sibuna” along with their names. After I had looked at it, I found the notecard I was looking for and went on with my day. Later that SAME evening, Sydney messaged me and sent me the above beautiful memory of Hannah. In it, she talks about that show they were obsessed with, “House of Anubis”. Syd told me the “Sibuna” is Anubis spelled backwards and it was one of the secret codes. I’ve always said, there are no coincidences in this life, and it was no coincidence that I picked up that necklace on the SAME day that Syd messaged me, after not having looked at the necklaces In years. Not a doubt in my mind, it was Hannah, letting us both know that she will be with us, always.