By: RJ Kaminski
California organizers shuffled down the stairs with Shootout for Soldiers team members and volunteers with boxes of jerseys, field tents and backstops. With the help of one to two dozen extra volunteers, event setup took but a few hours.
The local organizing crew had done this once before, as they were ready to make sure 2016 properly followed up their first shot at the event. And they were ready. Rachael Rennie, a member of the traveling crew, couldn’t get over how well the volunteer crew worked at Dana Point.
“We had volunteers who helped us set up, then went back to their homes for camping equipment,” Rennie said. “Then they set up a shelter for us volunteers to sleep in.”
Rennie worked the apparel and registration tent for a majority of the 24 hours. On several occasions she saw volunteers giving out hot meals to players, volunteers and those who just came to spectate.
“The people of Dana Point really make the event special,” she smiled.
Some of those people of Dana Point she is referring to are not just volunteers. They are players as well.
A member of the media team approached 68-year-old Carey Mangold while he stood crouched and ready in the net. The Shootout for Soldiers Snapchat needed to introduce its predominantly young audience to the Vietnam Veteran sweating in the cage.
“I honestly never had a chat or interview while the teams were facing off,” Mangold said. “I was just a wee bit nervous. But it was another first.”
As the halftime whistle blew, Veterans flocked over to Mangold, using every bit of that five-minute break to learn from such an incredible man. Mangold played last year at SFS California, but said something else made this year so special.
“My big desire this year was to scratch it off my bucket list of playing lacrosse for 60 years.” Do not think for a second that Mangold was out there just to trim that bucket list of his. The only reason he still plays lacrosse nowadays is to play at Shootout for Soldiers California, in support of the great mission and charities that SFS supports.
Local organizer Phil Lowance was thrilled to see the growth of this event compared to its first year in 2015. He realizes the event’s growth only maximizes the goal of Shootout for Soldiers.
“We crushed last years contribution performance by over 40%,” Lowance said. The amount of teams involved this year doubled the amount from last year. “We’re continuing our pursuit of support for individuals enlisted in, or retired from service in US armed forces.”
All of those charities benefitting from the 24-hour lacrosse game lined the entrance way at Dana Hills High School. One of those charity tents had more folks than usual out to chat with volunteers and spectators.
“It’s was great to have the final stop of Shootout for Soldiers 2016, near the Gary Sinise Foundation office,” said Charlie Gressett. “Just like last year; more staff, than just myself, was able to make it out and see the event first hand, and speak to the participants directly.”
Gressett and the other GSF staff in attendance kept something from the Shootout for Soldiers volunteer team…a video from Gary Sinise himself that he wanted to be a pleasant surprise to the team on social media. Seen HERE.
Gressett attended every single Shootout for Soldiers this summer. He has been everything one could ask for from a charity representative. Players, volunteers and spectators alike have noted his energy and enthusiasm at each event time after time.
As the final hour in Dana Point rolled around, people headed down to the field for closing ceremonies. The smiles all around the field exuded a “Wow, after everything…we made this happen” vibe. From the SFS team standing on a stretch of highway in Utah, to presenting a check with organizers and volunteers to a group of deserving Veteran charities just five days later, the 2016 summer tour capped off in the best way possible.
This year’s performance set a new benchmark for Shootout for Soldiers excellence,” Lowance said. “It’s an honor to be a part of the process.”