By: RJ Kaminski
Shootout for Soldiers Long Island attracted more than 14,500 players and spectators this year and fundraised $120,491. However, these numbers do not adequately describe the impact the event had in the town of Oyster Bay in just 24 hours.
Shootout for Soldiers Long Island hosted a Veterans game, a special needs game, a wheelchair lacrosse game and a game dedicated to a fallen Nassau County Hero. The day also welcomed in the All Veteran Parachute Group, who descended 12,000 feet onto the field to hand-deliver the game ball.
Shootout for Soldiers Long Island organizer Harry Jacobs knew that he and his team would have to put in a lot of work to pull off a lineup like that.
“My Co-Chair, Mike Nelson, and our committee had conference calls each month since last September to make sure Long Island’s second Shootout for Soldiers would be even better than the first,” he said. “So we all put our heads down and went to work.”
The highlight last summer, at the 2014 Shootout for Soldiers Long Island, was the adaptive lacrosse game. In a spur-of-the-moment game, the PAL Nassau County Knights faced off against a team of young veterans who had played just an hour before. This year, four different special needs organizations including the PAL Knights, Bay Shore, Garden City, and Half Hollow Hills Challengers, joined together to take part in Shootout for Soldiers Long Island.
“Everyone was able to send 8-10 kids each,” Nelson said.
“The special needs volunteers, just like our Shootout for Soldiers committee, get along very well. We all have the same objective, which is to make everything work well for the children.”
Mike Nelson also made things work for veterans, handicapped players, and anyone else willing to participate, in Long Island’s first wheelchair basketball game.
“I haven’t seen in a long time the guys have as big of smiles on their faces as I did on the wheelchair game,” Nelson said. “I haven’t seen thorough enjoyment of guys playing with that much happiness as I did with the boys in the wheelchair game.”
People leaned on chain-link fences of the outdoor basketball court, some getting their first taste of the physicality, grit and fun on display through a wheelchair lacrosse game. The players in the game who play with one another weekly were excited to have enough players for a full 7-on-7 game.
“They even met a few guys at the event, who are actual veterans, who are now going to be steady players with their (recreation) group,” Nelson said.
Once the adaptive, wheelchair and veterans games concluded, a group of friends had the chance to take the field during the 7 p.m. slot. They were friends who varied in age from their 20s to their 50s, and they all had one common connection.
The 7 p.m. game in particular was played in memory of a fallen hero from Nassau County, in New York Police Officer, Brian Moore.
Friends, neighbors, and classmates of the late Moore, who was shot in the line of duty, played in his memory Thursday evening.
“Since the funeral, this is the first time we’ve all come together,” said the late Moore’s hometown friend, Daniel Toscano. “I saw a lot of coaches and a lot of old kids I played with. They were all there. It was really nice to see everyone in Plainedge come together as one.”
Those who served with Moore for the NYPD not only had a chance to honor his memory, but also had a chance to play in a rivalry game against the Fire Department of New York City.
Both games drew a large crowd as well as the Veterans game which played at 6 p.m. this year.
“The family and I took a road trip to play in Long Island game,” said United States Army Capt. Erik Mineo. “I was lucky enough to play in all previous Veteran games in Baltimore and this year.”
Mineo was also one of two recipients of the Shootout for Soldiers Patriot Award presented by Rockville Centre Lacrosse Club at Long Island.
“Pictures are worth a thousand words, but the Shootout for Soldiers is worth a thousand positive emotions,” Mineo said. “I am privileged to say as a Veteran, I have been involved with SFS since its inception four short years ago.”
Mineo is one of a select group of Veterans who have attended and played in two or more Shootout for Soldiers games this summer.
“I was able to connect on a deeper level with someone who was a stranger at the beginning of the conversation, but then felt like a family member,” Mineo said. “That is the power of the Shootout for Soldiers and why I will continue play every year until I am no longer able.”