WASHINGTON – Christine “Chrissi” Egan and her softball teammates at Boone County High School,in Florence,Ky.,didn't have dugouts to protect them from the rain. Their male counterparts did.
When she asked why,Egan said Tuesday,she didn’t realize her pursuit of equality in high school sports would take her as far as it has.
“Who knew that one person asking why do we have to stand in the rain would result in 17 new softball fields in Kentucky,” said Egan as she accepted the Yoshiyama Award for Exemplary Service to the Community at a luncheon in Washington.
“Through her actions,softball umpires are now paid the same as their male counterparts,there are 17 new softball fields all over Kentucky,and there is more equality coming,” said Jasmine Tarasova,a 2002 Yoshiyama award recipient who introduced Egan.
As Egan led a campaign to equalize the playing fields,she faced discrimination from peers,teachers and the community.
“There were rumors and things in the paper,” she said. “They said we were lazy. If we wanted more money we should do fundraising.”
Egan's mother,Kim Egan,who attended the ceremony,chimed in,“You never see football players holding signs for car washes.”
She added it cost almost $25,000 in legal fees to fight the inequities,and that,although they were reimbursed when they won the suit,it took all of their time.
“Even though it's tough at times,keep doing it,” said Kim Egan. “Title IX is out there and it has been for 30 years,so keep fighting.”
The Hitachi Foundation gave Yoshiyama awards to 10 youths from across the nation who graduated from high school last spring. The foundation received 700 nominations for this year’s award.
In the last 16 years,the Hitachi Foundation has honored 156 graduating seniors to help combat the negative stereotypes of young people and to encourage students to continue their leadership after graduation.
“They are distinguished by the fact that they see an issue and they address it,” said Barbara Dyer,president and CEO of the Hitachi Foundation. “They create something that wasn't there before.”
Egan and the other nine recipients will also receive a gift of $5,000 over two years. Egan plans to put the money toward her college tuition at St. Mary’s College in South Bend,Ind.
She said she never expected to be a part of this select group of young people,but the experience has restored her perspective on her fight against the athletic association.
“After the lawsuit,I didn't want to hear any more about Title IX,or have anything to do with softball,but coming here made me hopeful,” she said. “This experience showed me that there are so many other people in our country that care so much about other people.”
As a part of the award,the Hitachi Foundation brings the students to Washington,and they attend a weekend leadership workshop on an island in the Chesapeake Bay.
During this retreat,workshop leaders reinforced the importance of the students’ accomplishments and encouraged them to create other organizations and continue to fight inequities.
“We try to help them understand during this change in life how remarkable they are,” said Dyer. “They go beyond joining volunteer efforts,they create them.”