The Saturday after Thanksgiving began the annual Sticks for Soldiers Lacrosse Tournament at Ludlowe High School in Fairfield. Teams from all over Connecticut joined together to play games and raise funds for returning soldiers who are going through rehabilitation after losing limbs.
Bobby McGinnis, junior, who played on the Foran boys teams, describes how the day progressed: “We played four 30-minute games of 6 versus 6 lacrosse. At about 11:30 we went to the main field to listen to a speech by one of the recipients, and the soldiers as well. All the money goes to the two wounded recipients.”
This year’s honorees were Sergeant First Class Mark Holbert and Sergeant Aaron Alonso.
According to the Sticks For Soldiers website, “…during his fourth tour in Afghanistan, [Sfc. Holbert] stepped on an IED on 16 August 2010, resulting in his right leg being amputated above the knee, and his left leg amputated to his hip from a fungal infection. He is missing multiple fingers, and suffered extensive nerve damage along his forearm.”
Sfc. Holbert continues to push the boundaries of his physical disabilities, the website states. His awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Purple Heart, Special Forces Tab, Expert Infantry Badge, Combat Infantry Badge and others.
US Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Alonso was a squad leader in 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, and was injured just this past February 2014 from an IED explosion. He received wounds that included the loss of both his legs well above the knee. After only six months of rehab, he wheeled himself in a 5K race, and climbed the 88 steps to the Lincoln Memorial.
The Sticks For Soldiers website describes him as a real inspiration.
In addition to the boys’ lacrosse teams, girls from Foran participated as well to raise money for these two soldiers.
“Despite the cold weather, the girls put in a solid performance,” says Kirk Knudsen, a Foran girls’ team coach. “The girls started off slowly in the cold weather and gradually and steadily improved throughout the day, playing Fairfield-Warde, Lauralton Hall, St. Joseph’s, and finishing strong against Weston.”
McGinnis adds, “It’s cold but it’s nothing compared to nights in Afghanistan. We always play the weekend after Thanksgiving to give our thanks to the soldiers.”
“We worked really hard as a team, and adapting to playing with new people isn’t easy. With the amount of determination and passion that our team has, we gave the teams who had a more developed program a definite battle. Look for the girls’ lacrosse team in the spring and definitely come out to support!” said Julia Astram, sophomore, who played on the girls’ team.
The tournament was a huge success. All the teams helped raise more than $115,000 for the honorees. Sticks For Soldiers continues to gather the community together to give thanks to the soldiers who have served the country. To get more information or to donate, visit sticksforsoldiers.org.
Some information courtesy of www.sticksforsoldiers.org