The lacrosse community in Freehold Township lived up to their varsity teams' moniker and did something truly patriotic this past weekend, raising over $5,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, an initiative that helps members of the military who have been injured in combat.
Past, present and future Patriots and their supporters came out to the track behind Freehold Township High School on Saturday, March 26 to participate in an afternoon that included running a ceremonial mile and a hardest shot competition.
Steve Gibb, head coach of Township's boys varsity team and himself a veteran, organized the day.
"We asked each individual to go out and try to get at least 10 people to donate a flat $10 donation made out to the Wounded Warrior Project," Gibb said.
Gibb's boys varsity squad generated the most private donations by raising $2,305. They were closely trailed by Freehold Township's youth program, CJLAX, which raised $1,790. The girls varsity team also made a significant contribution, raising $915.
"The Wounded Warrior Project does everything from just about A-to-Z to take care of the warriors who went over to Iraq and Afghanistan and other places in the world," said Gibb.
Men and women who have lost limbs in combat have been fitted with prosthetics through the Wounded Warrior Project. Beyond simply providing the artificial limbs, the Wounded Warrior Project also offers programs that aim to help wounded warriors adjust to the new battles in their lives.
For some of the Patriots, the mission was personal.
"I myself want to go into the military after college, so I was really happy to see that people actually still care about the war and people are willing to come together and raise money for our soldiers," said Mike Luongo, senior goaltender.
Chris Lach, who played varsity lacrosse all four years at Freehold Township, arrived at the track Saturday wearing his full camouflage uniform and beret. Lach joined the military in the autumn after he graduated in 2007. He just completed combative school and is on his way to airborne school, then active duty.
"The fact that this came up now ... One of my buddies was killed on the 11th in Afghanistan by an IED (a roadside bomb) and you know, anything I can do to help out here so I can help out those guys," Lach said. "I've been lucky enough to not have any more than broken fingers and broken toes yet so they've got it a lot worse than I do, so anything I can do to help."
Gibb said his mission was to bring awareness to the kids about the mighty sacrifice service men and women make to protect the American way of life.
"I want them to see that there's more going on in this world than their studies and their athletics," Gibb said.
"We just want to make them aware of that and do what we can to help those guys out that sacrifice limbs or even their psychological well-being, or some of them their lives. We're trying to help them out to the best that we can, them and their families."
Gibb is eagerly awaiting the day he gets to find out exactly who the Patriots have helped and how.
"They do give you feedback after you send in your donation, and I'm really looking forward to that," said Gibb.
Though Gibb felt the afternoon was a successful one, he wished he could have gotten a few Wounded Warriors to attend.
"If there's a veteran in the area who's a Wounded Warrior and he's available, 99.9 percent of the time, they'll come out and help you out. This particular time there wasn't anybody available, so we're kind of doing this one without them, but hopefully next year we'll be able to get one or two of them down here to join us. I think that would be awesome," Gibb said.
Coach Gibb would like to extend a special congratulations to Mark Buanic of the CJLAX Youth Program, who single-handedly generated $440 in private donations himself.
"That kind of effort toward this worthy cause deserves a special acknowledgement," said Gibb. "You da man, Mark!"
The following businesses and organizations also contributed: Freehold Township Recreation, Tuscany Caterers, FGM Inc. Landscaping, Universal Lacrosse, Injury Rehab Center, Michael G. Lynch Chiropractic Care, Freehold Kruisers Car Club, Bill Wagner & Son Plumbing & Heating Supplies, Walt's Carpet Service, Battleview Orchards, , and Walter (Big W) Cooper Baby Boom Karaoke & Entertainment.