The atmosphere around Tewksbury Memorial High School may be a bit somber on Wednesday and it won't have anything to do with the inclement weather or finals week.
Tewksbury High students will be remembering former classmate Meghan McCarthy, who passed away January 19, 2010 after a long battle with brain cancer.
The TMHS girls basketball team will honor McCarthy, a standout athlete in basketball and field hockey, during their 6:00 p.m. Friday night game at home against Lawrence.
Both teams will wear pink bracelets in Meghan's honor, and the Tewksbury girls will warm up in pink t-shirts commemorating McCarthy's life. A brief ceremony will be held at halftime, recognizing Meghan and her family. Lee McCarthy, Meghan's mother, is expected to be in attendance.
The boys and girls basketball teams held an emotional tribute to McCarthy last season, a few weeks after her death. TMHS girls basketball coach Mark Bradley isn't expecting the same type of emotional outpouring this year, but he said that keeping Meghan's memory alive is important to his team and the school.
"Meghan just taught the girls on this team so much," Bradley said. "She was just tough as nails through her whole ordeal. She never once complained. She just made the most if it and a lot of us learned so much from that."
McCarthy was initially diagnosed with a brain tumor during the summer after her freshman year at TMHS. She underwent treatment and seemed to be making a remarkable recovery. Family and friends organized a fund-raising group that was dubbed "Meghan's Miracle." With Meghan at the forefront, the group raised thousands of dollars that were donated to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
"She came back so strong from the initial treatment," said family friend Debbie Sugrue. "She played field hockey and basketball and she looked like the picture of health. She got her (driver's) license and went to her junior prom. And she did so much for Dana Farber and with the Flying Henry's."
The Flying Henry's were a cancer fundraising group that had ridden in the Pan-Mass Challenge bicycle race for several years before partnering with the McCarthy family two years ago. Meghan rode in the Pan Mass Challenge and other fundraising events, and some of her friends and family members continue to ride in her honor.
That's the idea behind honoring McCarthy's memory at Friday night's basketball game.
"It's going to be tough for the kids," said Sugrue, whose daughter Kelli, a sophomore center on the TMHS girls basketball team, lost both a lifelong friend and a role model when McCarthy passed away. "I know it will be tough for the kids at school (Wednesday), too."
McCarthy's memory remains fresh in the minds of many TMHS students. Her picture and a tribute to her hang in the Tewksbury High gymnasium, and according to both Sugrue and Bradley, her name and her spirit are still part of the everyday routine at the high school.
"The (basketball) kids talk about her all the time," Bradley said. "We're not having the greatest year but it's tough to get too down on yourself when you think about what Meghan went through."
"You have no idea," added Sugrue. "The girls talk about her all the time. She still has a Facebook page and 30-40 kids go on there every day and write something. It's amazing."
A group of TMHS students organized a road race in McCarthy's name last spring, and Sugrue hopes that events like the basketball game tribute and the road race will keep the memory of McCarthy's courageous fight against cancer from fading.
"As long as people don't forget, that's the important thing," Sugrue said. "She did so much."