Head up to Dublin nowadays, and you’re liable to see or hear the phrase “Steiner Strong” a lot.
It’s on shirts, it’s on the chain link fence bordering Dublin Coffman High School, and most of all, it’s on the minds of many. It’s all in support of high school senior Riley Steiner, who was diagnosed in July with leukemia. Her medical treatments have compromised her physical strength, keeping her out of school this fall semester. Her friends and lacrosse teammates miss her terribly.
"I at first didn't want to believe it,” says fellow senior Lauren Scheetz, “and I really just denied the fact that something so dramatic could happen to someone so amazing as Riley."
The sentiment is unanimous.
“Every single one of us,” begins lacrosse teammate Sarah Proctor, “whether we're seniors with her or some of the underclassmen, we all look up to her immensely for who she is as a person and as an athlete, and as a teammate."
Proctor says she and Riley began lacrosse together in fifth grade. Like so many this Friday, they are wearing – and selling – orange t-shirts, to symbolize leukemia and support Riley’s battle. Those shirts, along with orange wristbands bearing the “Steiner Strong” slogan, are quite popular in town, and not just among Riley’s classmates and teachers. Riley’s mom Mollie is a fitness instructor and works for the city of Dublin. Her colleagues use superlatives like “amazing” to describe the Steiner family.
"We decided that we wanted to try to support the effort, so all of the employees purchased the "Steiner Strong" t-shirts and are wearing them today in support of the whole Steiner family,” says Tracey Gee, one among a large contingent who gathered Friday afternoon, all decked out in orange, for a group photo and a chance to shout “Steiner Strong!” on video.
It’s the kind of unity that would grab even the attention of strangers. It certainly is the kind of unity that has traveled across the town line to Hilliard, specifically to high school football arch-nemesis Hilliard-Davidson High School, whose team is paying a visit to Dublin Coffman this Friday evening. Typical game day chatter at any high school can include a bit of trash talk – indeed, Hilliard-Davidson wants victory as much as ever, but even the most spirited Hilliard-Davidson Wildcats are favoring Riley over rivalry.
"Our Cats guys are painting themselves orange for the game,” says Hilliard-Davidson senior Emily Mueller, who, coincidentally played sports with Riley when they both were very young. Although they don’t know each other now, Mueller has led a charge of support, including sales of those same shirts and wristbands, which are going like hotcakes in the Hilliard-Davidson halls.
“[The Wildcats’ uniforms are] going to say 'Riley' on their backs,” Mueller explains, “so when they turn around and face Coffman, they can see 'Riley'.”
It’s not the only touching gesture coming from the south end of the Emerald Parkway. Age-old tradition has included Hilliard-Davidson students sneaking on to Dublin Coffman’s campus within a few days of the annual gridiron grudge match, and painting a large boulder near the stadium – the “Dublin Shamrocks Rock” – Wildcat blue, as a prank.
Not this year, though. The most recent layer of paint is orange, of course, adorned with – you guessed it – “Steiner Strong”. The Wildcats and Shamrocks will battle each other on the playing field, but they’re all on the same side of a much more important fight.
"Even though [painting the boulder blue] is supposed to be, like, a tradition, they've kept it. We've kept it orange for Riley. It's all been for Riley."