Nineteen-year-old Costello at a Cal Bears Football Game
December 1, 1987|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Died||June 24, 2010
San Francisco, California
|Parents||Jim and Mary Costello|
Jillian Helene Weinkauf Costello (December 1, 1987 – June 24, 2010), better known simply as Jill Costello, was an American athlete and activist against lung cancer. Jill is best known for leading the California Golden Bears crew as varsity coxswain while fighting against stage IV lung cancer. Jill was an otherwise healthy, 21 year old non-smoker, when she was diagnosed with cancer. In 2011 Jillian was inducted into both the NCAA Hall of Fame and the UC Berkeley Golden Bears Hall of Fame.
Jill Costello was born in San Francisco, California to mother Mary Costello and father Jim Costello. Jillian has two older brothers, Jimmy and Kevin. She attended high-school at St. Ignatius College Preparatory and is an alumna of the University of California, Berkeley. Jill performed as a dancer with the San Francisco Ballet by the age of 9. During her year-long battle with cancer, Jill completed her degree in political economy of industrial societies with a 4.0 GPA, was the Cal Greek System's Panhellenic Vice President, was an active member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for lung cancer research and remaining an active member of Cal Bears women's varsity crew.
At 5'4" and 110 pounds Jill started her athletic career as a coxswain with the St. Ignatius Crew. Jill continued her career with UC Berkeley's women's crew where she was ultimately named Pacific-10 Conference (Pac-10) Athlete of the Year. Costello coxed the varsity 8+ to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2010 and a second-place finish overall. She also coxed the varsity 8+ for her first time during the 2010 season and she led the Bears to a victory over Stanford to clinch the Pac-10 Championships for Cal. That season she was second-team Pac-10 all-academic. In her junior year in 2009 she coxed Cal's first-place varsity 4+ at the Pac-10 Championships, which also took fourth at the NCAA Championships. As a sophomore in 2008 Costello coxed the varsity 4+ that placed fourth at the NCAA Championships and second at the Pac-10 Championships. Jill also earned Pac-10 All-Academic team honorable mention that year. In 2007, her freshman year she coxed the novice 8+ at the Pac-10 Championships.
Diagnosis and fight against cancer
On June 6, 2009 Jill was diagnosed with Stage IV small cell lung cancer that had already spread to both lungs, her liver, breasts, ovaries, and bones. However widespread the cancer, Jill was physically fit, a nonsmoking, college athlete, and had only gone to the trainers office with slight pains in her abdomen days after coxing her boat to a second place finish at NCAA. The gravely serious results she received from her initial stomach pain was shocking and Costello's story spread quickly through her CaringBridge website. All together Costello underwent twenty one rounds of chemotherapy and fourteen radiation treatments. Soon after her diagnosis, she was interviewed on National Public Radio and spoke against the negative stigma surrounding lung cancer as a "smoker's disease". Jill spearheaded the first Jog for Jill on February 7, 2010 on the UC Berkeley Campus. The race drew over 1,000 participants and raised over 45,000 dollars for lung cancer research. This was the largest fundraiser ever for lung cancer at the time. In April 2010, Costello held "I like my hair, but I LOVE my Lungs" parties and encouraged friends from around the country to cut off their ponytails and donated them to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths Cause. Later that month, she made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France a in search of a miracle. She then spoke at Genentech, a cancer research company about finding a cure for cancer that would save lives. She also participated in and was the cornerstone of the Just like Jill campaign. The cancer research campaign's main message is that "Anyone Can Get Lung Cancer". But it was on June 20, 2010, four days before her death, when Jill sent out a mass message on Facebook and her CaringBridge page from her hospital bed inviting everyone she could to participate in the upcoming San Francisco BJALCF Walk in September in her honor. Her message was later used by the foundation to spread the word about the Jog via YouTube and was the kick start for the entire Jog for Jill and Jill's Legacy movements.
Jog for Jill
After Jill's death BJALCF held their annual lung cancer walk/run in honor of Jill. Jog for Jill SF was held on September 12, 2010 and drew over 5,000 participants and raised over 350,000 dollars. This Jog for Jill broke the record previously set by February 2010's jog and is currently the largest event held in support of lung cancer research. In Berkeley on February 6, 2011 the second annual Jog for Jill was again held on UC Berkeley campus and raised $98,000 for lung cancer research.
Now Jill's Legacy has taken charge of the Jog for Jills and is hosting them on many more college campuses and cities every year. There has been a Jog for Jill at the University of Tulsa (September 18, 2011), Cornell University (September 25, 2011), University of Washington (October 2011) and UC Davis Campus. Towns who have held the event include San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, and one in Orange County.
The Bonnie J. Addario a Breath Away from the Cure Foundation (BJALCF), a worldwide leader in efforts to eliminate lung cancer, announced on March 7, 2011 that they have launched a new Advisory Board made up of 21 young professionals who have each been personally touched by lung cancer. The Board has been called "Jill's Legacy" in memoriam of Jillian Costello. The groups mission is "to be the driving force in significantly increasing the stagnant 15.5% survival rate of the world’s number one cancer killer—Lung Cancer." The organization was nominated for a "Classy Award" in 2010.
Jill's Legacy's motto is "BEAT Lung Cancer Big Time!" All money raised through the groups fundraising campaigns goes directly to young researchers and lung cancer awareness movements. Jill's Legacy has participated in many fundraising efforts besides Jog for Jill, including attending the OMG Cancer Summit for young cancer patients and survivors, was the official non-profit for the 2011 PAC-10 Rowing Championship and the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 Rowing Championships, was the sponsor for the Stotesbury Cup Regatta on Boathouse row in Philadelphia and has members that attended the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer July 2011 World Conference in Amsterdam. Jill's Legacy has also held local events in San Francisco and the bay area, including a benefit party before the Cal v. Stanford Big Game in 2011.
Awards and honors
Cal Woman's Crew raced and won as "Team Jill" wearing special uniforms in honor of Jill at The 2010 Big Row against rival Stanford. Stanford also raced in colors honoring Jill who was unable to attend. Cal's team also wore their "Team Jill" uniforms as she coxed them during the NCAA Championships races that year. The Golden Bears dedicated that season to her and the men's crew also raced their championship race in support of Jill. Jill received the Cal Pac-10 Athlete of the Year award in 2010. Before the races however, Costello was a guest speaker at the 2010 Academic Honors Luncheon at UC Berkeley. At the luncheon she received the Joseph McDonnell Kavanagh Award, an award given to Cal's Most Inspirational Student-Athlete. At the conclusion of the season Costello, along with the rest of her crew was honored by The San Francisco Giants during their 2010 World Series Championship Season. Jill's father Jim accepted on her behalf wearing a "Team Jill" shirt. Rowers continued to show their support for Jill when her high school team the St. Ignatius' crew christened a varsity boat The Jill Costello. Jill had the honor of pouring champagne over the boat and coxing its rowers for its inaugural row. After her death, UC Berkeley Crew followed suit and also christened a boat in Jill's honor. Her silhouette is on its bow and her quote and cause, Beat Lung Cancer! is on its side. Following the tone set by the 2010 season, Berkeley held The 2011 Big Row in memory of Jill and renamed it The 2011 Jill Row. Both Cal and Stanford men's and women's teams rowed in colors and with ribbons commemorating Jill's life and legacy. Costello's story is getting more national attention as Jill was featured in Sports Illustrated Magazine's November 2010 issue in a story entitled The Courage of Jill Costello by Chris Ballard. The story later won an award for "Most Outstanding Story" at the 13th Annual Luce Awards. She has also been featured in May 2011's NCAA Champion's Magazine. On June 5, 2011 ESPN's Beyond the Game aired a special feature on Costello entitled Wave and Wake by Jeff Freeman documenting Jill's inspirational effect on the Cal Women's crew especially during their 2010 season. Costello continues to be honored a Cal football games, and by other athletes who wear a Jill's Legacy bracelet during games to show their support. Jillian is one of two winners of the NCAA Inspiration Award, who will be recognized in January during the Honors Celebration at the 2012 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis. Her supporters also campaign each year for "Jill's Birthday Wish", a campaign she started to celebrate her twenty second and last birthday, by collecting donations for lung cancer each year on December 1.
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