Kern: Drexel's Meghan Creighton assists on and off court

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Drexel guard Meghan Creighton holds Brigid McDevitt while walking hand-in-hand with sisters Megan Rullo and Molly Rullo.

MEGHAN CREIGHTON was in second grade when a friend of one of her three older brothers, Evan Brady, was diagnosed with bone cancer, a disease that four years later would take his life. But not his spirit. So a group of families and friends soon started "Evanfest" to raise money to help others with children battling life-threatening illnesses. Her family was among them. And in the decade since then the volunteer-driven organization has raised in the neighborhood of $1 million.

"It speaks to who Evan was," said Creighton, who's now a fifth-year senior guard at Drexel. "He was the type of person who, when you walked into a room, made you the most important person. I was playing in rec leagues at the time, and he'd ask about that or how my brothers were treating me. I was 12 when he passed. Did I understand what he did to my life yet? No, not at all. When you're that age, all you know is this amazing person is gone and it hurts. You have to have faith that God put you on this earth to do something to impact someone else's life, to make them better people.

"He was kind of that rock you throw into a pond and the ripple effect just continues. His name and his legacy carries on. I'm fortunate to be part of that. I mean, I'm 23 and I still don't understand cancer, or why it happens . . .

"I just knew I wanted to do something more."

This season the four-year starter and three-year captain, who last year missed tying the program's single-season record for assists by one, created and implemented her "Assisting Others" initiative (pledgeit.org). For every assist, she earns pledged donations for "Evanfest" and "Ryan's Case for Smiles." So far it has generated an estimated $17,000, with a target goal of $25,000.

Ryan Kerr was a fellow teen whom Brady had mentored who also would succumb to bone cancer. His family started sewing pillowcases that were delivered with handwritten cards to children in hospitals. So Creighton and her mom Peg sewed. Last summer, Meghan served an internship as the organization's social media director.

"I've always just wanted to do my part," she said. "You talk about having a purpose. What was Evan put here for? I'm still trying to figure things out. I can't say what the plan is. Hopefully in 10 years, I'll have answers. Looking back, everything I'm doing is because of the way I was taught."

Creighton works in soup kitchens, just like her mom. And delivers meals to people who can't get out, as her mom does. And reads to kids in grade school. And whatever else that needs attention that she has time for. Or makes/finds the time for.

"The best way to describe Meghan is she's very giving, in everything she does," said Dragons coach Denise Dillon, whose team is 14-4, 5-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association. "You're going to get the most out of her. And she's in control, all the time. If everyone else is having a bad day or they're not feeling right, as soon as Meg shows up they're like, 'OK, we're in a good place now.'

"She makes everyone around her go, 'I've got time. I'll do something.' She keeps a great balance. And she'll never tell you about half the things she does until after the fact. She gives the credit to others, but she's making the commitment. She's an incredible role model, but she would never think of herself that way. She just wants to be involved. She likes being part of things that are bigger than her."

Creighton played for her father Chuck (who played at Widener) at Archbishop Carroll, where they won state titles in 2009 and 2012. She was the CAA's 2016 Dean Ehlers Leadership Award recipient for her community service. She could become the first two-time winner in CAA women's basketball history. She graduated last year with a degree in finance and is pursuing a master's in sports coaching leadership. She redshirted two years ago after suffering a knee injury, and is the only remaining member from the 2013 WNIT championship team. "Yeah, I'm grandma," she said with a smile.

Creighton needs 79 assists to become the program's all-time leader. She's averaging 3.8 a game, nearly two fewer than last season, because she's being asked to shoot more. And she's making 49 percent from the arc. Her 10.8 scoring average is third-best on the team, and four more than a year ago.

"I think you learn a lot when you get injured," said Creighton, whose brothers went to Malvern Prep and played lacrosse at Villanova, North Carolina and Notre Dame. "Being on the sidelines isn't fun. I think it made me a better leader. Telling people where to go is my thing. It comes natural on the court . . . When people know you care about them outside those four lines, that creates a better atmosphere."

She doesn't know how much basketball she has left. But the other stuff that defines her can be forever.

"I'm not the only one doing it," Creighton said. "It reminds you how lucky you are, puts the world in perspective. Sometimes you'll give people a meal and they can't remember the last one they had. Then you go home and open a cabinet and there's anything you want in there.

"When you go to see the kids in the hospital, it's one of the most eye-opening things you can ever experience. You know they have cancer, and it's awful and it's hard. And we'll be talking with them in the waiting room. And the doctor calls them back so they can get some more chemotherapy treatment. It makes everything I go through a lot more doable. Because you realize those kids might never get the same chance.

"You're giving them a pillowcase, but it means everything to them. It can get to you. I'm a person 365 days a year. I'm a player for a lot of them, but not all of them. I hope what I do off the court is greater than it ever was on it. People think you give so much. But I say I get 10 times more back than I ever give. You learn so much. And you feel like you can never learn it any other way."

She could leave as the career leader in games played. She's already been a two-time CAA All-Academic selection. She recently went more than six full games (201 minutes) without a turnover. On Nov. 21, her trey with eight seconds to go (her seventh of the game) gave the Dragons a one-point win over then-No. 11 Syracuse. Yet obviously that's only a fraction of her story.

"It's just so impressive that she's taken it to this level," said Dillon. "She's got a grueling major, and we monopolize so much of her time, yet she never says no. She'll always be like that. It'll get passed on to her children. Instead of maybe sitting in her apartment on a Thursday night watching TV or just relaxing, she's out there making that conscientious effort. That's her mentality. She has to make a difference."

Then, now, in the future. For her, those who have touched her and those she can hopefully reach out to. She is indeed one of the fortunate ones. Pass it on.

"Basketball has given me so many opportunities," Creighton said. "I couldn't just come out and have another season without trying to do something more. Without other people, (charities) don't exist. Just like I wouldn't be anything without my teammates. It's who I am. So 'Assisting Others' fit well. It kind of clicked . . .

"It makes me feel good. It's something I'm proud of. I can never give 'Evanfest' enough money. But it's not about me. That's the best part of it. Once the money goes, it doesn't matter where it came from. It's Evan Brady who did it.

"There's never an off day for cancer. People can't pick and choose when they don't feel well. As a volunteer, you can't pick and choose either. You put yourself into every moment. If it gets overwhelming you think about Evan or Ryan and you're grateful for what you have. And what you can give."

kernm@phillynews.com

@mikekerndn