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Act of Kindness Returned 29 Years Later


Anne Donovan
Anne Donovan
Photo: Brad Horrigan,
Hartford Courant/March 9, 2013

The Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development (ISSCD) at Neumann University will honor Anne Donovan with its annual award on October 29 at 7 p.m. Donovan is a former basketball superstar, having won an AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) national championship at Old Dominion University in 1980 and Olympic Gold Medals in 1984, 1988 and 2008 (the last as head coach). She was the Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne of her day.


Donovan is not being honored for her basketball prowess, however. She is being recognized for an act of kindness that changed another young woman's life 29 years ago.


In 1984, Renee Keister was one of the most promising basketball players in New Jersey. In her first two seasons at McCorristin Catholic High School in Trenton, she had scored more than 800 points and big-name colleges were already expressing interest. On June 15 of that year, while doing gymnastic exercises at home, Keister fell and broke her neck. The accident left her paralyzed.


Sr. Marguerite O'Beirne, OSF, Neumann's vice president for mission and ministry, was principal of McCorristin at the time. She immediately began planning a fundraising event for Keister to help the family meet the tremendous medical expenses incurred in caring for their daughter. One of Sr. Marguerite's contacts suggested a benefit basketball game to raise money, and they wrote to basketball stars with New Jersey roots to ask for help.


Donovan, who played her high school basketball at Paramus Catholic, immediately agreed to play in the September 1984 game, which raised $10,500 for the Keister family. She even returned the next month for a second benefit game to help Renee. In addition to defraying medical bills, the proceeds also helped outfit a van for Keister, who graduated from McCorristin and went on to earn a college degree.


According to Sr. Marguerite, "We would never have raised the money without Anne Donovan."


Twenty-nine years after a stranger's act of kindness changed her life, Renee Keister will present the 2013 ISSCD Award to Anne Donovan.


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