Long Island has contributed many talented athletes to the sport of lacrosse over the years, but next month, the game is giving back.
Four NCAA women’s lacrosse teams will be playing their regularly scheduled games at Oceanside High School on April 13 to raise funds for local families still recovering from superstorm Sandy.
“Long Island is a very lacrosse-populated hot bed,” said Liz Kittleman Jackson, head coach of Columbia University’s Division I women’s lacrosse team, which will take on Yale University as part of the benefit. “Because Long Island has so many lacrosse fans, we can get a lot of people to this game and raise a good bit of money.”
The all-day event, dubbed “Lax Loves LI,” will kick off at 11 a.m. with a Division II matchup between Molloy College and Southern New Hampshire University, and conclude with the Columbia vs. Yale showdown at 3 p.m. For a minimum suggested donation of $10 for adults and $5 for kids, spectators can enjoy both games along with complimentary BBQ fare, kids activities, a youth girls lacrosse clinic and a live musical performances by bands The Mystic and Permission to Launch. There will also be raffles and a Chinese auction, with all the proceeds going to Oceanside Community Service, a local not-for-profit that has been providing emergency funds to residents impacted by the Oct. 29 storm.
“We have done a fair evaluation of south Oceanside,” said OCS President Robert Transom, 59, of Oceanside. “About 30 percent [of homes] have storm damage. We’re still devastated.”
A 17-foot tidal surge during Sandy brought anywhere from 3 to 10 feet of water into many Oceanside homes and it lingered there for up to 12 hours. Dr. Herbert Brown, 64, superintendent of the Oceanside School District, had 7 feet of water inside his basement and had to relocate to Long Beach for three months. Sandy left 600 Oceanside students displaced, and as of Tuesday, Brown estimates nearly 200 of them are still not living in their homes. Their houses had to be gutted, and the restoration work has encountered delays.
“Families used their disposable income to start [rebuilding] with the promise that insurance or FEMA money would flow quickly, and that didn’t happen,” Transom added.
OCS has disbursed the $100,000 it raised locally and an additional $15,000 it received from the Robin Hood Foundation to nearly 200 families throughout Oceanside. However, the list of residents in need is long, and the organization is hoping the fundraiser will bring in at least $75,000 more, so it can help more families.
“We ran out of money,” said Frank Luisi, a former teacher and coach at Oceanside High School who now serves as an adviser for NCAA college-bound student athletes.
It was Luisi, 60, of East Williston, who came up with the idea to bring the college teams to Oceanside after speaking with Kittleman Jackson. His original plan stemmed from a desire to connect the high school players with Ivy League athletes, but it evolved into a fundraiser to benefit the larger community of Oceanside and beyond.
“It’s going to be a beautiful time for us … integrating young people who have dreams of going to college and people who need help right now, because of the devastation of the hurricane,” Luisi said.
Through a partnership with Island Harvest, OCS will also be distributing food to families from Oceanside, Long Beach, Island Park and other affected areas throughout the day. Nassau County’s Office of Emergency Management and FEMA are expected to be on hand to answer questions, too.
“We're just really humbled by the opportunity to help by showing up and playing lacrosse,” Kittleman Jackson said. “That's the easy part, certainly a lot easier than what a lot of people are going through after this storm… It's the least we can do.”