By: RJ Kaminski
Sweat streamed down the faces of volunteers working the scoreboard and the apparel, charities’ and sponsors’ tents that wrapped around the field at The Woodlands on Friday and Saturday. The highest recorded temperature on the turf clocked in at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, only bringing smiles and laughes to officials and clock volunteers giving their time and effort on the sideline.
The biggest smile may have come from local event organizer, Stacie McKay, after the first whistle blew. McKay claimed that first whistle erased her nerves as it signified the end of a long six months – but just the beginning of a record long lacrosse game.
“The work leading up to Shootout for Soldiers was long and tedious at times,” McKay said. “However, since I wanted to bring this event to Houston since 2012, it was a labor of love.”
All those who enjoyed Texas’ first SFS could thank McKay’s parents for teaching their daughter an admiration for our servicemen and women.
“I come from a family that was taught to respect and appreciate our veterans no matter our political views,” McKay said. “I also love lacrosse, so this event seemed like the perfect way for me to give back.”
Despite the heat, Veterans arrived on the field hours ahead of the opening ceremonies. Local Texas charities, event organizers and SFS Executive Director, Tyler Steinhardt spoke before the Veterans game began as fans had already taken their seats in the shaded bleachers.
Head Woodlands lacrosse coach, Keith Tintle, was most surprised not by the amount of players registered, but by the incredible number of fans who attended. He was also thrilled at the opportunity to play under the moonlight rather than under the sunlight for a change.
“Especially playing at 12am to 2am, when it is past most of their bed times,” Tintle said. “And most of all, teaching them about giving back to the game for such a great cause.”
For all 24 hours, folks supporting that cause had the chance to chat with the charities benefitting from the money fundraised. The Green Beret Foundation and The Lone Survivor Foundation distributed literature, freebies, and apparel representing their respective non-profits.
“We really appreciate Shootout For Soldiers inviting us out and adopting us as one of the local charities,” said Green Beret Foundation Operations Manager, Frances Arias. “We also appreciate all the hard work the teams put into raising funds for the organizations. Every penny counts and makes an impact!”
Thanks to a team of girls slotted to round out the 24 hours before the check presentation, the event energy and atmosphere only improved in the final hours.
Houston United Lacrosse Club played in back-to-back games as the turf temperature soared to its highest peak. A member of HULC and Towson alumna, Delaney Fisher, heard about the event while in college but never had a chance to play until it arrived in Texas.
“Texas isn’t known as being a lacrosse state so I think I speak for all Texan lacrosse players when I say we were honored to be able to play for our nation’s veterans,” Fisher said.
During water breaks and both halftimes, Delaney and her teammates took over SFS snapchat, posed for pictures and swapped GoPros with each other. It was clear that Houston United came for the event experience and the cause, not just for the game.
“I have seen and played lacrosse at a lot of different levels but the atmosphere at this tournament had a way of bringing everyone together for the game that I have never experienced,” Fisher said. “For once the game was not about which team won or lost.”
Houston organizers have already begun discussing the potential success of another event in Houston next year.
“Speaking from all of us here in The Woodlands, we would love to have Shootout for Soldiers come back,” said Coach Tintle. “And I believe that we would double the number of donations from this year…let’s go 2017!”