Shootout for Soldiers Continues to Grow, Amaze
|Veterans played in the 9 a.m. game on Thursday, helping kick off the third annual Shootout for Soldiers at McDonogh School in Maryland. (John strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)|
BALTIMORE — I'm about to begin my senior year at The Ohio State University, and I'd like to think that I had done a lot to help those in need, such as volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.
That didn't seem like much after meeting Tyler Steinhardt.
In the winter of 2012, after Steinhardt and a group of friends at the Boys' Latin School of Maryland watched a video detailing the struggles that men and women face once returning home from war, they came up with the idea to stage a 24-hour lacrosse game (played in one-hour mini-game segments) to benefit wounded American soldiers.
Two years later, the third annual Shootout for Soldiers is in the books, and Steinhardt, who will be entering his junior year at American University in Washington, D.C., this fall, is still surprised at how quickly the event has flourished.
"It's grown way beyond my wildest imagination," Steinhardt said. "It turned out incredible this year, by far our best audience. It was really spectacular."
The event kicked off with an opening ceremony Thursday morning that included a U.S. Army Golden Knights Jump, a 13,000-foot jump. At 9 a.m., the veterans took the field, and with the opening whistle, the first one-hour mini game was underway.
With each passing hour, the 14,000 fans who came out over the course of the event witnessed both men's and women's games of all ages and skill levels, including college and professional players taking the field at 8 p.m., something that garnered Steinhardt's respect.
Some of the Major League Lacrosse players on-hand for the event at McDonogh School (Md.) included Boston Cannons midfielder Paul Rabil, Chesapeake Bayhawks attackman Brendan Mundorf, and Ohio Machine attackman Steele Stanwick and goalie Scott Rodgers.
"I can't thank them enough for their generosity. It really goes to show what the lacrosse community is about and it's an honor to have these guys come out and support every year," Steinhardt said. "It means a lot and says something about their character."
Keeping fans engaged throughout the night, various competitions took place alongside the late night lacrosse games including a midnight trick shot challenge and a 4 a.m. hot dog eating contest.
All of those events culminated with Steinhardt presenting a check of an event-record $175,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project, the Army Ranger Lead the Way Fund, Semper Fi Fund and Gary Sinise Foundation. That number has helped SFS surpass the $400,000 mark over its three year history, although Steinhardt said the money raised is a second thought for everyone involved.
"We don't stress fundraising too much," Steinhardt said. "Our first two goals are to educate people about the struggles veterans face when coming home from combat and engage them with the community, and the final goal is to fundraise. So fundraising doesn't take direct focus."
Still, Steinhardt is thankful for everyone who donated, including Loyola alum Chris McGovern, who raised $25,000 himself and played in all 24 hours of the event.
However, like last year, weather was a question mark throughout the day. It rained, and the game needed to be moved inside for portions. But, like Sgt. Ryan Major, a 2003 Towson (Md.) High graduate who lost both legs and several fingers to an IED while serving in Iraq in 2006, said the end of the event in 2013, "adapt and overcome."
The weather may not have been perfect, but the atmosphere was.
24 hours, one game, one goal.
At the end of it all, the Stripes were able to edge out the Stars by a score of 369-346, which, safe to say, will be the highest scoring contest of the year.
Now with three successful years of SFS behind him, Steinhardt will be directing his focus towards next month, when SFS will expand as it makes its way north to Long Island for the first time.
With the thought of expansion present for a long time now, Steinhardt credits the work of everyone involved to help create a second SFS event that will take place in Field of Dreams on Long Island from July 24-25.
"We've had a lot of interest in expanding the event ever since it started," Steinhardt said. "Long Island, especially, was the next great choice being the lacrosse hot bed in itself. I'm very excited to take it out there."
So are we.
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