By: RJ Kaminski
The Shootout for Soldiers team traveled to Columbus, Ohio this weekend for the third of five events in its summer road trip tour. Thanks to chief organizers Merry Troper and Anita Schonhiutt, the Ohio event met the high expectations held by Columbus residents and Shootout for Soldiers supporters.
“Laughter, smiles, and giving back is what made Shootout for Soldiers Ohio successful,” said organizer Merry Troper. “Also having a great Baltimore team too!
More than 6,500 supporters passed through the gates at Thomas Worthington High School from Friday to Saturday evening. Among those in attendance were volunteers and supporters of our veteran charities, as well as families and friends of participating players.
“It was amazing to watch the event come together,” said organizer Anita Schonhiutt. “In a matter of hours the tents went up, you could smell the concessions, and the field was ready and waiting for lacrosse players. The excitement of the players and spectators was contagious!”
More than 800 lacrosse players participated in Ohio’s inaugural Shootout for Soldiers, with groups ranging from 8-year-old girls to 50-year-old veterans.
“Around 5 AM my jaw dropped,” said Veteran Peter Mackenzie, a volunteer tasked with running the press box.
Mackenzie had the pleasure of seeing more than 24 teams play from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. One matchup in particular, the Ball Hawgs vs. the Columbus Old Dogs, proved to be the most memorable
“I expected maybe 20 on each team, but no…they just started filing in,” Mackenzie said. “Some of those guys are 60 years old. Even the level of play in that game and across the board was way better than I was expecting.”
The Shootout for Soldiers tends to have at least one or two spontaneous happenings, whether it be an adaptive lacrosse team facing off against veterans in Long Island or a Golden Retriever refereeing “ruffereeing” the late-night games of SFS Baltimore.
During the second to last hour at Shootout for Soldiers Ohio, spontaneity struck again. One U9 girls’ team did not have an opponent of the same age and gender to face. Thomas Worthington High School then became the site of the first ever “Daddy-Daughter” game.
“I can’t think of another time it will ever happen…” said Jason Dote, who had the chance to play with three of his daughters on Saturday, Madison (14), Layton (8), and Murphy (3).
“Where I’ll be out there with my daughters in a game setting, on the turf, with a scoreboard running and announcers in the booth,” Dote said. “I just don’t know if that would ever happen again.”
The apparel station proved to be one of the busiest stations, as a line formed for apparel even through the 1-4 a.m. hours. Gabby Steinhardt, a member of the Shootout for Soldiers volunteer team since 2012, manned the apparel booth for almost all 24 hours.
“When selling apparel, I get to meet everyone from players, parents, grandparents, veterans, sponsors, locals, and more,” she said.
Because lines formed at the apparel tent at some points during the 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. hours, a moment never passed where Steinhardt was not interacting with supporters.
“It’s a great way to get to know the community and the people that are passionate about the sport and helping the lives of those who have served,” Steinhardt said.
The first Shootout for Soldiers Ohio was a success, fundraising $45,065 for our beneficiaries. Organizers Merry Troper and Anita Schonhiutt are already thinking ahead to the future.
“The best feeling is knowing that our work is not done, and that the weekend was just a beginning to bringing awareness and support to our wounded servicemen.” Schonhiutt said.
The event’s success has the Shootout for Soldiers news still spreading around the city of Columbus.
“The conversations continued the next day on Facebook, through emails, and in the community,” Schonhiutt said. “And all of those conversations ended with the same question, “Will Shootout For Soldiers be held again in Columbus next year?”
Schonhiutt answered that one herself, saying that now, “We can proudly say YES! Let the planning for 2016 begin!”
Posing with the check after 24 hours at Shootout for Soldiers Ohio!