Sticks for Soldiers tournament Nov. 30 at Ludlowe
Last year's Sticks for Soldiers benefit lacrosse tournament at Fairfield Ludlowe raised more than $65,000 when 46 boys and girls teams, featuring more than 700 players, helped support the rehabilitation needs of two wounded military men and their families.
This year's tournament, Sticks for Soldiers VIII, centered at Taft Field on Nov. 30, reached its limit of team entries on Oct. 12. Teams from Ludlowe, Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Prep are part of the larger field.
Many of the proceeds come from the team registration fee of $600. Games will start at 9 a.m. and end by 3:30 p.m. in the eighth annual installment of the tournament. Some games will be played at the adjoining Roger Ludlowe Middle School field and at the Sturges Park complex near the back entrance to the high school. Some games will be played on turf, others on grass. There is no rain date.
Tournment chairman Jim Tommins is hopeful this year's tourney will exceed last year's donation total. It's possible with 58 teams, 850 players and 110 games. The previous tournaments have raised more than $225,000 and have helped six severely injured soldiers since its inception by Mike Voucas in 2006. Ludlowe boys varsity coach Chris Parisi was the idea's first supporter. The initial Sticks for Soldiers drew six teams. Voucas served as tournament chairman until 2011 when Tommins took over.
Among the 58 teams, the field has been broken down into two boys varsity divisions (1 and 2), as well as boys Junior Varsity and girls varsity. The playing format will feature games on shorter, narrower fields with boys competing 7 vs. 7 and girls 8 vs. 8. Most teams will play three games, tournament officials say. The games all will be 30 minutes long, with running time and five minutes between the conclusion of one game and the start of the next. Sudden victory in overtime will decide any ties.
Schedules will be posted on the tournament's website, www.sticksforsoldiers.org, by Monday.
This year's honorees are U.S. Army Capt. Benjamin Harrow, of Rockville, Md., and U.S. Army specialist Sean Pesce, Ranger, of West Haven.
Harrow, 32, is from Great Neck, N.Y. He played lacrosse at Army for four years. In his second tour in Afghanistan in May 2012, Harrow stepped on a mine while leading a foot patrol. His wounds resulted in the amputation of both legs above the knee. He sustained severe damage to his right arm as well. Harrow, who has earned three Bronze stars and one Purple Heart, and his wife, Gina, have a 2-year-old son Peyton.
Pesce, 21, was shot 13 times in a close-range battle with Afghan insurgents that killed his sergeant on Oct. 12, 2012. He lost his spleen, a kidney and shattered his vertebrae, damaging his spinal cord, during the attack. Pesce is paralyzed from the waist down, and has been recovering from many surgeries, including spinal fusion, in Virginia, Florida and Massachusetts. He has earned a Purple Heart and was awarded a Bronze star. Pesce plans to move from Massachusetts to his family's home in West Haven once it becomes modified for his needs.
"Holding this tournament is the least we can do for brave soldiers like Captain Harrow and Specialist Pesce," Tommins said in a news release. "These guys have sacrificed so much defending our freedom, and face significant challenges in their future."
Also part of the fundraising are the sale of wristbands ($3 donation) and commemorative T-shirts, as well as the encouragement of private donations. A silent auction and raffles are planned.
Tommins can be reached at email@example.com, and Voucas is available at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Sticks for Soldiers office phone number is 203-292-3740.