When the St. John’s Women’s Basketball team makes its final push toward a BIG EAST title, the Red Storm will be without one of its most important pieces. Her contributions may not show up on a stat sheet and her name may not appear in a newspaper recap of the game, but she is as important a part of the Red Storm family as any player on the floor or coach on the bench.
Jill Christensen, who has been a member of the St. John’s community for more than two decades as an athletic trainer, will miss the remainder of the women’s basketball season as she prepares to receive treatment for squamos cell carcinoma of the lymph nodes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital.
Ask anyone associated with the St. John’s family and he or she will tell you that Jill is a special individual. With an ever-present smile and a warm, welcoming demeanor, Christensen has been one of the most beloved members of the St. John’s athletic department staff since moving to New York from her native Iowa in 1989.
In addition to earning the admiration of her peers over the years, Christensen has also endeared herself to generations of student-athletes that she has nurtured and helped grow during their time at St. John’s.
“Jill is one of the best trainers I have ever had,” said St. John’s Women’s Basketball student-athlete Sandra Udobi. “She knows my body inside and out. I don’t have to explain myself too much for her to understand what was going on with me physically. She instantly knows and she always knows what is right for me; that’s how good she is. If something is bothering me personally, I know I can count on Jill to be there for me no matter what. That’s how much she means to me. She has impacted me in so many ways because there are days I just want to give up, but she reminds me of how far I’ve come and how blessed I am to be where I am. She just isn’t my trainer, she is my mom at St. John’s.”
An unquestionably selfless person, Christensen has devoted a large chuck of time over the years to The League of YES foundation, formerly The Miracle League of Long Island, serving as its treasurer. In this capacity, Christensen has helped bring the joy of athletic competition to hundreds of special needs children that would otherwise not have the opportunity.
In an utmost act of extreme selflessness, Christensen volunteered to donate one of her kidneys in 2012. While it takes a tremendous amount of courage to donate an organ to a loved one, it takes a herculean amount of bravery to donate to someone you have never met. Jill did just that. After originally undergoing testing to see if she was compatible to donate a kidney to St. John’s alumnus and former football coach Dennis Bligen, Christensen discovered that, while not a match for her friend, she was a perfect fit for a stranger in need of a life-saving kidney operation. Christensen never gave it a second thought, going under the knife to come to the rescue of a person that she had never met.
Seeing as how Jill has given so much and asked for so little over the years, St. John’s has decided that it is time to return the favor in her time of need.
“Jill has been a part of the fabric of this University for the better part of the last three decades,” said St. John’s Women’s Basketball Head Coach Joe Tartamella. “We all support her during this difficult time and we hope that we can make a difference for her, along with all those fighting against cancer. I strongly urge everyone in our community to support Jill in any way they can.”
“Jill has spent well over two decades at St John’s treating tons of student-athletes and administrators,” added Associate Vice President for Athletics Kathleen Meehan. “She always goes above and beyond and shows a great deal of care and concern to all she comes in contact with. It’s our turn now to show care and concern for her as she begins her battle with cancer. We want her to know that we are with her every step of the way as she has been for so many others.”
We encourage all alumni, fans or anyone that has been touched by Jill’s kind and generous soul, to donate to Memorial Sloan Kettering in her name. To give, click here and place Jill’s name in the honoree line. Gift notifications can be sent to:
Carnesecca Arena, St. John’s Sports Medicine
8000 Utopia Pkwy
Queens, NY 11439
After two-plus decades of Jill bestowing unrivaled care to Red Storm student-athletes, the St. John’s family hopes that this effort will help ensure that she receives the care she deserves in her time of need.