Sunday, October 10, 2010

GTFA Softball Award

This month as we are approaching the one year anniversary since Sammy’s death we have been thinking about her a lot. Then on October 7th we were invited to attend the Glenview Titan’s Fastpitch Association’s annual meeting. Sam had played on the GTFA traveling softball team for 5 or 6 years. This past season every GTFA team in the league wore a special patch for Sammy on their uniform.

At the meeting Dolly, Tony and I weren’t surprised to see some of Sam’s old teammates and coaches from both her GTFA and high school playing years including Rick Jaegers, & Kay Sopocy.

What we weren’t expecting was the wonderful, yet very emotion tribute to Sam given by Kevin Christell. In Sam’s memory The Glenview Titan’s Fastpitch Association has started an annual award, the “Sammy Cipolla Award”. It is to be given to the girl who best exemplifies the attributes that made Sam not only a great softball player but also a great person.

Listed as their criteria for award:

A player who shows courage and calm inspiration by approaching seemingly challenging situations with confidence and ease.

A player who exhibits unique softball IQ.

A player who displays superior work ethic and passion for the game of softball.

A player who raises the morale and performance of the entire team through her contagious positive and enthusiastic nature.

A player who demonstrates true camaraderie by always supporting teammates and celebrating their triumphs.

The nominations for the first Sammy Cipolla award were;

From the 12 U teams Melissa Miller and Lisa Gebein. From the 14’s Alysa Strapko and the winner who played on the 18 and under team, Julia Williams
Congratulations to all the nominees and especially Julia Williams. We look forward to watching you play this coming spring for Glenbrook South.

This award means a lot to us especially because we do have so many great softball memories of Sam.

Thank you Kathleen and Kevin Christell, David May, the Morgans, and everyone involved at GTFA. It was so nice to hear these heartfelt words about Sam at a time when we selfishly needed it for ourselves. Also it was a great reminder to hear how Sam touched other people’s lives as well.


Friday, October 1, 2010

October 1st

A year ago today, Sam was so happy that she made it to her transplant one year anniversary date. She was happy for her transplant team that she loved so much. With her new prognoses of “Acinar” cancer she knew there was no more anyone could do, it was just a matter of time. But the one year anniversary date was important to her because she knew how talented her team was and hard everyone worked to make that high risk surgery happen and be successful. They were successful, and it gave Sam an extra year of life. If the cancer didn’t turn out to be Acinar, I’m sure Sam would be blogging something about this today.
I know I haven’t been writing and keeping Sam's Blog going, but I can see from the counter that people still check it now and then. We will keep it going and hopefully have something to say or post now and then. In the mean time, if anyone wants to have something posted, sharing a Sam story, please feel free to send me an email at and I'll get it posted.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Welcome to our Crib!

Hi everyone!

I know it has been a while since we’ve posted anything. Our family has been doing well and doing everything we can to remember Sam. A tree has been planted in our backyard in honor of her. For those of you who live nearby, you may have noticed a small light that we put in her bedroom window, which is always on, to symbolize that her light is still shining here. I am currently working on a huge scrapbook project. It’s been fun going through pictures and letters from Sam going back many, many years.

Sam loved making videos (as you’ve witnessed on this blog!) A couple years ago, she started to make her own mock version of MTV Cribs, a show in which celebrities show off the ins and outs of their incredible homes/pools/cars, etc. We filmed it in about 20 different clips, but never put them together into a real movie. Carisa and I recently came back to this project and just finished putting the video together! I wish Sam could have seen the final product, and we are so excited to show it to all of you, to help you remember Sam and how funny and amazing she was!


Here is our version of MTV Cribs, starring Sam Cipolla and her fabulous crib.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sam's Jr. High School basketball jersey retired 12-15-09

Yesterday at Springman Middle School, on the basketball court at halftime between the Springman vs. Attea games, the school held a brief ceremony honoring Sammy. Sam’s eighth grade coach Alex Posner presided where he and Sam’s good friend and teammate Katie Klemke unveiled Sam’s framed #1 Springman Wildcat jersey. Her jersey and number are to be retired and hung in the lobby of the school.

During the two years Sam and Katie played for Springman, they compiled a record something like 35-1. Under coach Posner’s 8th grade team, they went undefeated.

Sam would have been so honored by this. Thank you District 34, Coach Posner, and everyone involved at Springman.

Below are the words spoken by Mr. Posner at the ceremony.

Today we are going to honor former Springman student and star basketball player Samantha Ann Cipolla... she was known to all of us as Sammy. Sammy was a member of the Springman family from 2000 to 2002. After that Sammy went on to become a star athlete at Glenbrook South High School. Then she attended Northern Illinois University. It was at Northern that Sammy was diagnosed with cancer. Over the two years following Sammy’s diagnosis, not only was her life profoundly changed, but the lives of many who followed her story were changed. We are not only honoring Sammy today for her contributions while here at Springman but more importantly because of what we learned from her during those two years of her battle with cancer. Sammy taught us to stand tough in the face of adversity. She taught us to appreciate things we might otherwise take for granted. She taught us an important message about love. She showed us how to be positive and use humor to get through tough times. Sammy’s message literally reached all the way around the world through her blog site, One Tough Cookie. We honor Sammy today, and thank her parents, Chris and Dolly, for sharing Sammy with us. Chris and Dolly, we would like you to accept this jersey with Sammy’s name and number she wore while playing at Springman. And, with your permission, we would like to display this jersey in Springman’s lobby, not only as a way of paying tribute to Sammy, but as a reminder of how precious life is and how wonderful Sammy’s message of hope and courage was.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sam's Remembrance

I have had many requests to post the remembrance I read at Sam's funeral, and am happy to share it.  -Alex

Samantha Ann Cipolla

Sam once wrote “My life is nowhere near over.  I’ve only lived 13 years of it, but from these 13 years I think I have something to say.”  Now, 8 years later, I have to agree she had something to say for herself.


It seems almost pointless to stand up here and tell all of you what a wonderful person my sister was.  I think it was clear to everyone she came in contact with, that she was an amazing woman whose attributes cannot justly be put into words.


Growing up, Sam always stood out. When the caterer tried giving Sam a hotdog along with all the other 4 year olds at a police picnic, Sam quickly stopped him and insisted on having an Italian sausage with green peppers and onions.  She was the only girl on her football team, and baseball team, and sorry boys, but was better than most of you.


Her love of sports extended to the big leagues, and especially the Hawks.  She wore her Jeremy Roenick hat constantly.  She only took if off at the dinner table (by force, of course) and to shower.  And yes, she even slept with it on.


As she grew older, it remained apparent how remarkable of a person she was.  She wrote me once that even though it seems she’s getting older, and won’t need that older sister advice as much, she would still be stumped a lot.  There were a couple times in high school that she called me and told me she was crabby or sad, or just needed that big sis advice, to which I told her to hop in the car and drive to NIU to spend the night with me.  Mom and Dad, you thought she was down the street at Ness or Carly’s for a sleepover, but that’s beside the point.  What Sam didn’t know was that in coming to me for whatever advice I could possibly give, she was actually the one teaching me a lesson.  The way she handled situations and the maturity she showed, and even just her ability to reach out when she needed it, proved she never needed advice at all.  She was wise beyond her years.  As Bobby put it, she just got it.  She could see the big picture and always knew what was important in life.  She was very practical, and very reasonable.


After Sam got sick, her positive mentality and giving nature never changed.  It was never about her.  Sam made friends with everyone, and made them with ease.  Not only did she become great friends with her doctors and especially nurses, but even members of the hospital cleaning staff loved Sam and joked with her all day long when she was around.  Sam would say please and thank you to everyone, for everything.  She would thank you not only for the big things, but would thank her nurses for taking her blood pressure, and her family for simply keeping her company.


Sam did her best to not let the cancer slow her down.  Her friends meant so much to her and she worked very hard to spend so much time with them this past summer.  She was beyond thrilled whenever her body gave her the energy to go out for a night and be with those she loved.  While celebrating her friend’s birthday at a local establishment, Sam and I both ended up getting kicked out after some words were exchanged with the bartender.  On our way out, Sam picked up her drink, and while staring at the bartender, chugged it, and slammed the empty glass on the table.  That’s my girl.  Now maybe we shouldn’t be proud of getting thrown out, but for that moment, Sam got to act like, and was treated like, not a cancer patient, but a normal 21 year old girl.


As Sam neared the end, she was not afraid to talk about her life after death. My mom recently told Sam that “it’s not too late to pray for a miracle,” to which Sam replied, “Mom, you’ve had a miracle for 21 years, don’t get greedy.”  Sam strongly believed, and reminded us often, that even after she died, she will be here for us for as long as we need her to be.  She told us that whether it be through dreams, memories, or things that surround us, she will be here.  She worried more about those that loved her than she worried about herself.  She said we had the hard part and all she wanted was for us to one day laugh to ourselves when remembering the goofy things she said or did... of which there are many.  She told us that in times of need we could leave notes under our pillows, which might still be there in the morning, but she would have gotten the message.  She also told my dad he could just ask her for help, but that people would think he was crazy if they heard him talking to a dead person.


Sam wrote that our parents will walk across fire for her if her Gatorade was on the other side and she was thirsty. Mom and Dad, she spoke constantly of your selflessness and the amazing, constant care you gave her. She truely believed you are the World’s best parents.  Carisa, Sam always admired your passion, and how much you cared about the things you believe in, even if you believed in different things.  Tony, Sam has always been so proud of you, and was sad she wouldn’t be able to see you grow up to be a well rounded gentleman who knew how to treat women right, but she knows that you will. 


Sam was an allstar athlete, a comedian, an entertainer, a teammate, and a proud Italian. 


She loved good cooking, a good jam session on guitar, and a good laugh.


She was just as stunning in a prom dress as she was gorgeous in a t-shirt and baseball hat.  She had one dimple, and a heart of gold.


She was a fighter, a role model, a true inspiration, and she was tuff.


She was the younger version of her Nonnie, and a daughter to be proud of.  She was more than a sister, she was a best friend... to many.


Sam was a gift to all that knew her, and she will be forever missed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dear Sam letter

With permission I am posting Connie's letter which she tried to add as a comment. Chris

Dear Sam,
I know you said if someone wanted to talk to you they could write it down and leave it under their pillow and you would read it. But, I'm guessing that if I write to you on your blog you'll read it too! I miss not being able to check the blog to see what your latest happenings are. Whether a well described hospital procedure or just what book you were reading, I always wanted to know what you were doing. But, now your stories have stopped but as life would have it, ours continue. So I thought I would tell you a story about the few days we spent saying goodbye to you.

When I looked at the map and saw the location of the funeral home it was weird because I cannot count how many times I have driven by there over the years. And, now I had to enter through those very doors myself to see you Beautiful Sam.
Not wanting to miss a moment we arrived right at the beginning of your wake. I watched in amazement as the hours ticked by and your Mom, Dad, Alex, Carisa and Tony (Mr. Secretary that is!) stood in line to greet the hundreds of people who filed by. Honestly, I couldn't really tell who was comforting who because your parents stood long and tall at a time where they most likely wanted to crumble to the floor in a heap and just sob. Your friends all came too. They mingled around with this lost look and deep sadness on their faces trying their best to comfort each other. They went from picture board to picture board looking at all the photograph's that were taken throughout your life. By the way, I don't think it's possible for you to take a bad picture! You looked beautiful in all of them!

On Saturday we woke up to the most beautiful, sunny and oddly warm November day. We went to the church and waited the arrival of you and your family. I sat in the seat next to the isle anxiously waiting and from time to time nervously turning around like a little kid wanting to see what was going on in the back of the church. Finally I could see through the doors that you and your family had arrived. Then I turned around to face the front when suddenly as if out of know where this very soft but strong gentle breeze came whooshing up the isle. All the little reserved seating signs flittered up and down. I knew at that moment you had entered the church! No doubt a choir of angels sent ahead to clear the way!

You know, I haven't been to a lot of funerals in my life Sam, but I have been to a lot of masses! Never in my life have I ever seen a priest cry while speaking! I think in that moment Father Matt said it all! It went right to my heart and spoke to how much you touched everyone! Then Alex spoke. She spoke with the grace and poise of a young woman beyond her years in honor of you, her dear sister. And, Carisa too had the courage to get up in front of hundreds of people. She knows not of her own beauty and elegances. And then your dear friends, Trisha, Carly, Jenna and Vanessa. Loyal to the end and no doubt beyond.

At the end of the service everyone filed quietly out of the church and just stood around out in front like they wanted to hold on to the moment. Many of them hugged and comforted each other. Finally people started to go to their cars to line up for the procession to the cemetery. I don't think the people sitting at red lights were happy when your procession came by! It was sooo long! I'm not sure but I'd guess at least a mile worth of cars!

We finally arrived at the cemetery and when I got out of the car I heard something that seemed so out of place that it took me a minute to fully identify what it was...the sound of a wind-chime tingling softly in the wind. I looked around to try and find where it was located but I never did find it. And, when we stood by your side at your site I could no longer hear it. I don't know how things work in the world you now reside in but I wouldn't put it past you to make that chime tingle in the breeze at that moment to sooth our broken hearts.

Well, Sam I've probably gone on too long and I know that this is written not for you as much as it is for me. Our lives have been profoundly touched by you and now profoundly altered by your leaving. To say that we miss you is an understatement. Sometimes words really aren't enough to express what a heart holds. But, I want to thank you Sam for all the love. Thank you for showing all of us what true strength really looks like. And, thank you for letting us in on your very personal journey! A quote from the book The Profit says, "When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."

As always, all my love to you Beautiful Sam and to Chris, Dolly,
Alex, Carisa and Tony.
xoxo, Connie


Monday, November 9, 2009

Thank You

Thank you Father Matt, for flying in for us and the wonderful words you spoke. Thank you Colonial-Wojciechowski, the Glen Club and Precision Reproduction Inc. for your excellent service and professionalism. Thank you Megon McDonough for your beautiful voice, and especially our home base, OLPH, for your teachings, compassion and generosity.

To my best friend Marlo, thanks for all you did, your nonstop help, but mainly for being here for Dolly, as always, when she needed it most.

To all our well-wishers and everyone who attended, especially those from out of town or away at school, who made the long drive back or flew in, thank you so much.

I am sure Sam felt the strong outpouring of love, as we did, all weekend long.