Two weeks before the new $1.2 million turf field at Notre Dame Preparatory School was formally unveiled at a sun-splashed dedication ceremony Sunday evening, a group of alumnae who wore the school's blue and white with Yeardley Love got an advance viewing of the field built in her name.
The young women, who since Love's highly-publicized murder in 2010 have coped with the loss of their friend and lacrosse and field hockey teammate together, shared a private moment at the field that will serve as a link to the time they spent with her at NDP and to future Blazers.
"We really just took a step back, and realized how important this was for Yeardley, and how important this is to us to see it now," said Sarah Quinn, a former teammate and fellow member of the Class of 2006.
"I think that for the girls of Notre Dame, it's so great to know they're going to be able to enjoy this for so many years to come," said Catherine Barthelme, another teammate and close friend.
"I know that if Yeardley was here, she'd be in absolute shock to know that this amazing field has been established in her memory. And to see her name huge across the field, I think it's just wonderful," she said.
Sunday's ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of alumnae, students, and friends of the school, was a tribute to the work put in by so many to make the Yeardley Love Field possible.
"I think that after Yeardley died, we really all came together and decided we wanted to focus on something positive," Barthelme said. "Actually, seeing this come to life and to stand on this field is incredible.
"It's just amazing to see that everyone's generosity and hard work paid off, and I'm happy there are so many people here to enjoy it and celebrate Yeardley's life," she said.
The ceremony began, as all Notre Dame Prep gatherings do, with the lighting of a candle, an act performed by Yeardley's mother, Sharon, and sister, Lexie.
After welcoming remarks from Headmistress Sister Patricia McCarron, Ted Bauer, trustee of the Charles T. Bauer Foundation — a leading donor for the project — spoke of the genesis of his patronage at the school.
Shortly after Love's death, Bauer visited the school and heard Sister Patricia's plans to move forward, and over the next two years, initiated a pair of initiatives that helped get the field project underway.
In December 2010, he issued a challenge grant that brought in more than $500,000 in donations for a fully endowed scholarship, all of which the foundation matched with a donation to the field campaign. A year later, the foundation donated another $165,000 to allow construction to begin.
"From where I stand, it is the giver who receives the gift, and I'm happy to be a part of it," he said.
The $1.2 million field was financed through donations to Notre Dame Prep and the One Love Foundation, a charity formed in Love's honor that also seeks to stop relationship violence.
Most of the evening, however, was dedicated to Yeardley's legacy and the impact the field will have on future students.
"From a somewhat reserved freshman to a song-singing, always-smiling senior who was ready to do anything or help anyone, no one more aptly exemplifies the transformative effects of sport than Yeardley Love," said Lisa Costello, co-head coach of the school's lacrosse team. "It is only appropriate that these future success stories will walk across Yeardley's name each day on the way to practice."
Yeardley's smile was engaging and easy, almost ever-present.
Mary Bartel, chairwoman of the physical education department and co-head lacrosse coach, told of Yeardley's ever-present smile and knack for diffusing the "girly cattiness" around her with kindness.
"She adored old people and lacrosse; loved gym meet, field hockey, and of course NDP," Bartel said. "By building this field in Yeardley's honor, we dedicate ourselves to her legacy. I hope when we step onto it to practice, play, officiate, cheer, or coach, that we are moved by Yeardley's goodness, her love of sport, and her sense of fair play."
The ceremony was also marked by gratitude, a trait Bartel said Love was never short on.
During their remarks at the end of the ceremony, Lexie and Sharon Love thanked everyone who donated both financial and emotional support in the wake of their loss.
"It's an indescribable feeling, to be here on the new field and see Yeardley's name on it," Lexie Love said. "I'm so honored, humbled and forever grateful to everyone."
"This has been a wonderful day," her mother added. "I'm deeply touched by the generosity that made this dedication possible."