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Students to ‘Raise an X for X’

Sara Felsenstein | Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tomorrow, thousands of students are encouraged to raise their arms in an “X” as a symbol of unity, strength and remembrance.

The “X” will honor Xavier Murphy, a fifth-year student and former resident of Zahm Hall who died Oct. 11 after a short battle with cancer. Tomorrow would have been his 23rd birthday.

Senior Daniel Duffey, a resident assistant in Zahm and friend of Murphy’s, said the unified “X” is the perfect way to honor Murphy.

“Doing [the ‘X’] for him is just a further symbol of exactly who he was.  It represents him, the dorm and our community standing together,” Duffey said. “Normally … everyone hates us for it, but this time it obviously means something more.”

Corry Colonna, rector of Zahm Hall, said the Raise an X for X campaign began when Murphy was first diagnosed with leukemia in September.

“We started this process before he had passed away,” Colonna said. “The goal was he would be able to see us.  He was watching the football games from Riley Hospital in Indianapolis. Our hope was … he would see a number of people with their hands up in the air for him.”

But for Murphy’s family and friends, tomorrow’s “X” will hold a different significance.

“One of the first questions the guys asked [after Xavier passed] is, ‘Are we going to move forward with this?'” Colonna said. “Mrs. Murphy called me that evening and I asked her. She said, ‘Now he’ll see it from heaven. Go ahead ⎯ sounds like a great idea.'”

Colonna said after hearing the news of Murphy’s passing, the Zahm community immediately came together to make Raise an X for X a reality.

“I will admit that in a time of such great loss, there is a sense of helplessness,” he said. “[The campaign] gave us some purpose, some way of channeling that grief. We moved forward, got more cosponsors after Xavier’s passing [and] we got the cheerleaders and leprechaun onboard.”

Colonna then met with members of the football team’s administration to figure out the logistics of Saturday’s event.

The cheerleaders and leprechaun will lead the student body in “raising an X for X” each time the band plays the Celtic Chant during the first quarter, Colonna said.

A moment of silence will also be held before kickoff to honor Murphy.

Zahm and the football administration decided to postpone the moment of silence until tomorrow’s game against Navy for four reasons, Colonna said. The administration wanted the moment to coincide with the Raise an X for X campaign and to make sure the whole student body was back from fall break to participate. Furthermore, Oct. 29 would have been Murphy’s birthday and, finally, Murphy’s family will be in attendance at tomorrow’s game.

Members of the football team wore “X” decals on their helmets at the beginning of the USC game and will continue to wear them for the rest of the season.

Murphy was one of three senior football managers last year and was interning with the football team this year.

Senior Brendan Corsones, a resident assistant in Zahm, said Raise an X for X reflects the strength of the Notre Dame community.

“I think we’re all kind of bonded together at ND by a spirit that we can’t really describe,” Corsones said. “It’s going to mean a lot this weekend.  We hope for a really big turnout.”

The campaign also involves T-shirt and bandana sales to raise money for Murphy’s memorial fund, a Basilica mass and a blood drive. O’Neill, Morrissey, Cavanaugh, Lyons, Ryan and Carroll Halls are co-sponsoring the campaign with Zahm.

Colonna said T-shirt sales and flat out donations will go to the Xavier Murphy Student Scholarship Fund through the Office of Development at Guerin Catholic High School.

Proceeds from bandana sales will go toward Relay for Life.

Zahm will sell bandanas today in both dining halls and at both entrances of Irish Green during tonight’s pep rally. Residence halls holding concession stands tomorrow will also sell the bandanas. Both T-shirts and bandanas can be purchased online at Student Shop ND.

Colonna said Raise an X for X is meant to both honor Xavier and to raise awareness about cancer, showing support for others who have been affected by the disease.

“We raised the idea that ‘X’ is like a variable,” he said. “For us, it’s Xavier, but ‘X’ could be the girl that lives down the hallway from you who’s battling cancer, [or] your Aunt Sally.”

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-resident 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.

Colonna said the blood drive will mark the end of Raise an X for X.

After the campaign comes to a close, Duffey said members of Zahm will come together to decide on an appropriate way of memorializing Murphy in the hall.

“He was just, first and foremast, a guy of Zahm,” Duffey said. “He embodied everything that we love about our dorm.”

The Raise an X for X campaign gives the dorm an opportunity to honor Murphy, who has left a lasting impression both on Zahm and on the larger Notre Dame community, Colonna said.

“I think that’s what this is about [is] a testament of how many people he touched, how much he meant to us and to others on campus,” he said. “I’m proud. This is the ND community. This is what we do.”