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'It's about relationships' at lacrosse clinic for kids with special needs

Students, volunteers, and clinic founder Jeff Reh (second

Students, volunteers, and clinic founder Jeff Reh (second from right) at the third Inclusive Lacrosse Clinic for special needs children on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 at Centereach Park. Credit: George A. Faella

From the parking lot of the Staff Sergeant James D. McNaughton Memorial Park in Centereach, Tuesday evening looked rather ordinary, just a group of kids playing lacrosse.

It’s a rather common occurrence on Long Island.

But inside those fences, the action meant so much more. Inclusive Lacrosse, a program for special needs children and young adults of any age, held its third free clinic. Started in August by president Jeff Reh and a group of volunteers, the clinics look to give local special needs athletes a place to learn, grow, and participate in one of Long Island’s foremost youth athletic activities.

As Reh puts it, it’s a lot more than ground balls and open nets.

“It’s about relationships,” said Reh, a special education teacher for Eastern Suffolk Boces who starred at Adelphi from 1986-90. “Lacrosse is secondary. I know lacrosse, that’s why I build lacrosse around the special needs kids. If they learn how to play lacrosse, that’s great. But we’re really trying to build relationships and have these kids do something great after school, and do something more than just a regular school day.”

Thirty two players participated in the clinic Tuesday, organizers said. Players ran through four stations — a game-play simulation, a scoring station, a ground ball station, and a passing and catching station. Volunteers from local youth, high school, and college programs have helped out at each clinic. The Long Island University women’s team helped out Tuesday.

“I like coming here because I can help people with special needs,” said volunteer Anthony Giambone, a fifth grader at Oxhead Road Elementary School in Centereach. “I can help them with the sport that I really enjoy. It makes me feel good. It brings joy to my heart seeing people playing lacrosse that have special needs.”

Even the mist that started about 15 minutes into the 90-minue clinic couldn’t stop the fun.

“I like lacrosse,” said athlete Jacob Rose, a fifth grader at Hawkins Path Elementary School in Selden. “It’s fun because you run and scoop up the ball.”

Reh said the clinics will continue and the organization is currently looking for indoor options to hold winter events. Options for growth include a potential for an organized league, Reh added, but right now it’s just about bringing the community together and increasing the sport’s outreach.

“We’re hoping to make it bigger and better and go to more communities and more places,” Reh said.

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