By: RJ Kaminski
Splish. Splosh. Splish.
Sopping wet jerseys began filling the plastic bins that were brand new just 24 hours the day before. Volunteers aging in range from 15 to 65 years of age bent over to pick up jerseys left from the final hour of play, capping off the second Shootout for Soldiers Texas at The Woodlands.
The heat and humidity presented a challenge for volunteers out as early as 7 AM setting up tents, water coolers, raffle and merchandise tables. American flags and banners painted in red, white and blue were pinned along the aluminum benches that were soon to be filled with the 3,000+ spectators that would circulate through during the 24 hours of lacrosse. By 11 AM, everything was in place for a long haul of games, national anthems, and color guard presentations.
“Seeing the recognition on players’ faces that their entry to the tournament makes a difference to our heroes was a great moment,” said Lezleigh Kleibrin of the Semper Fi Fund. Kleibrin’s tent stood among the other local and national charities out to engage with those attending and spreading the word of the incredible work each individual organization does to improve the lives of Veterans and their families.
No other volunteer experienced the initial excitement and anxiousness on the faces of those participants arriving to play than SFS volunteer Charley Reagan. “Everyone who came through the registration tent came with a purpose—to support the Veteran charities in attendance as well as SFS’s mission.” He noted that spirits remained high throughout, even for players coming through the gates as rain pelted down on them before they even hit the field.
“With this being my second trip with the Shootout for Soldiers team down South, it was no surprise that teams participating brushed off the mix of rain showers and blistering heat,” Reagan said.
Volunteers and participants alike went through multiple different T-shirts as the hours passed by. Complaints? There were none. Some volunteers even took the rain showers as an opportunity to cool down!
Rain and lightning usually dampens spirits of those out playing in the elements. One way or another, every aspect of SFS Texas managed to go on with minor delay, thanks to quick action by volunteers and cooperation of players and parents.
“The volunteer color guard, national anthem singers, fans, staff and of course the lacrosse players make this event what it is,” said Semper Fi Fund’s Community Events Coordinator, Sandy Hendren. “Rain or shine, with a few lightning delays, the games went on!”
Battling thorough the elements, SFS Texas Chair, Stacie McKay explained the significance of seeing the fruits of her labor come to fruition in the form of smiles, hours of lacrosse and a ton of one of a kind memories only possible at a Shootout for Soldiers.
“One of the highlights from last year went down again this time in The Woodlands. Not only did Woodlands Middle School have a Daddy/Daughter game, but the fans and volunteers were treated to a Woodlands High School Daddy/Daughter game as well.”
Mckay was impressed once again by how fans, players and volunteers alike came from far and wide to participate in 2017’s SFS Texas.
“This year we had several adult teams drive in from across the region with the addition of the West Texas Men’s and Women’s teams, and teams from San Antonio and Louisiana,” McKay said. Some drove 20 minutes while others drove three hours or more.
For one specific hour of late night play, the competition on the field was matched by the competition on the fundraising leaderboard. McKay explained what transpired for two teams battling it out both on and off the turf.
“Last year Tony’s Tavern topped Houston and made the national ‘Top 10’ list of fundraising teams. This year, teams were determined to knock Tony’s out of the top spot. With phone calls being made late in the evening, Saint Arnold Brewing Lacrosse edged out Tony’s by $43 to claim the top fundraising spot with $5,094 raised, claiming a spot in the national ‘Top 10.’ Our Texas teams knocked their fundraising goals out of the park for a second year with 16 of our 24 teams raising over $1,000 each.
McKay continued to reach out to those who made the event possible, thanking them for their worthwhile efforts. “We’re incredibly thankful for all those who participated and helped in making SFS Texas so special this year,” McKay said. “Let the planning for SFS Texas 2018 begin!”