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Students display an “X for X”

Sara Felsenstein | Sunday, October 30, 2011

The impact one student made on the Notre Dame community was tangible Saturday, as thousands of people in the Notre Dame Stadium raised their arms in an “X” to honor his life and memory.

Each time the marching band played the Celtic Chant during the first quarter of Notre Dame’s victory over Navy, cheerleaders led the student body in forming an “X” with their arms to honor Xavier Murphy, a fifth-year student and former resident of Zahm Hall who died Oct. 11 after a short battle with cancer.

Corry Colonna, rector of Zahm and organizer of the Raise an X for X Campaign, said more people formed the “X” than he could have hoped for. The “X” not only continued throughout the game, but spread from the student section into the rest of the Stadium.

“I just sort of looked up to the sky and thought, ‘He knows, he sees us,'” Colonna said.

Colonna watched the game from around the 50-yard line with Murphy’s family. He said they were clearly touched by the showing of solidarity for their son and brother.

Saturday would have been Murphy’s 23rd birthday.

Senior Steve LaBrecque, a resident assistant in Zahm, said showing Murphy’s family just how much he meant to Notre Dame was one of the foremost goals of Raise an X for X.

“The fact that his family was there, for them to be able to see the whole student body come together and realize that [Xavier] meant something to this community, and ND as a whole, for me that was the biggest takeaway,” he said.

Senior Charlie Harig, Zahm Hall president, agreed.

“The big thing for me afterwards was less about selling stuff, but more about [Murphy’s family] seeing ‘Wow, our son made an impact on a lot of people’s lives,'” he said.

Senior Daniel Duffey, a resident assistant in Zahm, said “raising an X for X” during the game was the perfect way to remember Murphy, who was passionate about Notre Dame — and especially Notre Dame football.

“It was a really fitting memorial for who Xave was — his love of Notre Dame football and Zahm,” Duffey said.

Planning for the Raise an X for X Campaign began in September, when Murphy was first diagnosed with leukemia. The goal was that Murphy would see a number of people with their hands in the air for him while he watched the game from Riley Hospital in Indianapolis, where he was receiving treatment.  

After Murphy passed, Colonna said the Zahm and larger Notre Dame communities pulled together to bring the campaign to fruition.

Colonna said the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, Student Activities Office (SAO), cheerleaders and leprechaun and football administration all went to great lengths to help make Raise an X for X a reality.

“I’m humbled and immensely grateful for everything everyone did for Xavier and his family,” Colonna said. “It was such a good cause but so many people were willing to help out. [That] speaks a lot to who Notre Dame is.”

Duffey said it was great to have the support of the student body in “sending the message about who Xave was.”

“We definitely got the word out there,” he said. “We know he was looking down, we were definitely proud to have done it for him.”

In addition to last Saturday’s events, the Raise an X for X Campaign also involves T-shirt and bandana sales, a Basilica mass and a blood drive. Colonna said T-shirts and bandanas were almost entirely sold out by the end of Saturday, but a few can still be purchased online at Student Shop ND.

Proceeds from the T-shirt sales and other regular donations will go to the Xavier Murphy Student Scholarship Fund through the Office of Development at Guerin Catholic High School, Colonna said. Proceeds from bandana sales will go toward Relay for Life.

On Nov. 4 at 5:15 p.m., Zahm will host a mass in the Basilica to honor those currently battling cancer and those who have died from the disease. Zahm priest-in-residence Fr. Jim Gallagher will celebrate the mass. Zahm will also hold a blood drive Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the LaFortune Ballroom to benefit the Indiana Blood Center.