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By: Griff Volker

Jim Eckert, the commissioner of the BattleLax Lacrosse Program in Northern Virginia, first had the idea of fundraising for one of his teams in the Shootout for Soldiers. He was not sure how generous his donors would be, but approached BattleLax’s U13 coach Shawn Dappen with the idea. Once the team started fundraising, Eckert’s doubts were silenced, as BattleLax U13 became one of the Shootout for Soldiers’ biggest supporters for this year’s Baltimore event.

“To be honest we have been surprised by how generous our donors have been,” Jim said. “When Shawn and I first discussed placing a team in Shootout for Soldiers, we were a little concerned about being able to raise the $750 minimum, but we were through that goal very fast and raised nearly $3,000 in the first 24 hours.”

The BattleLax U13 team has an important motto: “One Team, Team First”. As a team, they have embodied this motto by fundraising for the SFS. They have all individually fundraised, but as “one team” have raised more than $5,900 to date in support of the event.

The BattleLax Lacrosse Program was founded in 2009 by the current Northern Virginia Community College men’s lacrosse coach Rich Klares. Jim Eckert joined BatteLax in 2012 and has been able to quickly grow the program. All teams in the organization have been huge supporters of the SFS this year.

“With 13 teams, we have a pretty large program and our whole organization is very excited about this U13 team representing BattleLax at Shootout for Soldiers,” Jim said.

One of the earliest donors to the U13 BattleLax team was Mark Presgraves, the Vice President and owner of the His company has been an avid supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project, troops and veterans of America’s armed forces. The BattleLax U13 team could not have fundraised so successfully without the enthusiasm and support of the program’s players, families and donors.

“We are blessed with having many families that have parents and family members that have either previously served on active duty or who are currently contractors supporting various military commands,” said Shawn Dappen, the team’s head coach.

Dappen has strong ties to the military, as he is a former Marine and has served at military commands all over the world.

“My family, like many others, has a deep history serving our country and represent all branches of the military,” Dappen said. “This is a very special event and we are very excited to be participating this year.  I am looking forward to sharing this experience with this group of boys and their families.”

Dappen played lacrosse as a child growing up in Florida, but he started his coaching career by chance. When his oldest son was twelve years old, Dappen bought him a stick. During his son’s tryouts at school, he would play catch with him on the sidelines.

“One of the coaches walks over to me and says ‘Hey, it looks like you know what you’re doing with that’,” Dappen said. “And I say, ‘Yeah, I got a little experience with it.’ He replied, ‘Come on out here, you’re going to help us with assessments. You’re now coaching.’ So that got me started coaching about eight years ago.”

The U13 team has benefitted from the support of the many military and federal contractors in the Northern Virginia area. One player in particular, Ryan Svienty, has raised $1,850 on his own. With the help of the military presence in the area and the promotion of SFS on social media, all of the players on the U13 team have fundraised effectively. The team is very excited to come to Baltimore for this year’s event.

“We are planning on posting a video about our experience and even hope to have a player wearing a GoPro helmet camerea so our BattleLax family can see this teams experience at SFS,” Eckert said.

“They’re looking forward to the activity overall. That’s what they’re getting excited about…to see and interact with various veterans around there…and everything else that the event stands for.” – Shawn Dappen

Dappen will continue his support for the SFS by playing in the Veterans Game during the event. More importantly, however, he does a fantastic job of communicating the larger message of the event to his players.

“My biggest thing is that it’s been a great experience for those kids,” Dappen said. “We talk about teamwork and espirit de corps, and these kids want to get up there to support and see that on another level.”