By: RJ Kaminski
Opened Dunkin Donut boxes lined the volunteer tables, (with just a couple of jelly options left), as those who stuck out the entire night needed their dose of sugar to finish out the event. 8 o’clock in the morning rolled around at the Field of Dreams in Massapequa, Long Island. After 23 hours of lacrosse, news crews conducted interviews and volunteers began prepping for the check ceremony.
A group of organizers huddled near the apparel tent discussing the check about to be presented once the final game came to a close. Their concealed excitement was more noticeable than the exhaustion on the faces of many volunteers who stayed for all 24 hours.
“As I look back on the last few days, it just brings a huge smile to my face,” said Harry Jacobs, local Long Island organizer. “All the planning that started last year, the hard work leading up to the event is now finished for 2016.”
Before handing the final check off to our charity partners, Jacobs praised the committee that has been working toward SFS Long Island since the day after last year’s check presentation. “And why the smile?” Jacobs asked. “I really do love our team that works so hard to help make the Shootout for Soldiers a great event.”
Volunteer coordinator Trisha Clark Dean managed perhaps the busiest volunteer tent out of any other Shootout for Soldiers. She distributed shirts to volunteers and assigned jobs to folks who came just to help out.
“In total we had about 70 or more volunteers over the course of the 24 hours,” Dean said. “The people who volunteer have as much fun as the players on the field!”
Dean had no difficulty recruiting anyone to help out as folks signed up well in advance, prepared to take hours out of their day in the name of the cause. “This event is for such a good cause that everyone wants to be involved and help in any small way they can so they can honor our veterans and servicemen and women,” she said.
A high volume of volunteers was necessary, as much more than just lacrosse happened in Massapequa. This year’s SFS Long Island featured adaptive lacrosse, wheelchair lacrosse, a game in dedication to fallen NYPD Officer Brian Moore, and an hour-long ceremony to commemorate 18 Vietnam Veterans for their service.
Families of those receiving medals watched on from the first few rows as their loved ones received the warm welcome they unfortunately didn’t receive upon returning home after Vietnam.
“Through the good times and the bad times, our Veterans have been there for us,” said State Senator Michael Venditto while speaking at the ceremony. “They provide that light though the darkness. They’ve carried the torch through the times of triumph…And now more than ever it’s important that we stand with our Veterans.”
U.S. Army CPT. Erik Mineo stood in awe as the Vietnam Vets from the Long Island Air Force Association strolled up to the event decked out in their camouflage, badges and medals. One Vietnam Veteran even smoked a cigar on the field before the ceremony. “Man, those Vietnam guys have a style about them,” Mineo said.
Folks attending SFS Long Island had a unique opportunity to meet Veterans who’ve fought over a range of decades through a variety of conflicts. Never before have there been so many Vets at a Shootout for Soldiers at the same time.
One of those Veterans, John Fernandez, played on two prosthetic limbs Thursday, bringing home “The Patriot Award” presented by the Rockville Centre Lacrosse Club.
“When I see our Veterans and Military personnel engaging in conversations with ten- and eleven-year-old lacrosse players, it warms my heart,” Harry Jacobs said. “When a hero like John Fernandez, West Point grad and Army lacrosse player, can finally make it to play in the event it makes it all worthwhile. Seeing him enjoying the event with his Army Veteran friends was a wonderful sight.”
Jacobs and his committee are already brainstorming on how to make 2017 even bigger. Hard to believe that is possible when more than 100 teams took the field Thursday and Friday!