For most, a 5 a.m. alarm signifies the beginning of another typical workday greeted with dread. When it’s your wake-up call for the Casey Powell World Lacrosse Foundation’s third annual Beach Festival, however, you beat the alarm and have your coffee to go!
I received an email from Heather Chase O’Neil asking for volunteers for the August 25-27th event and jumped at the chance to be a part of an event that helps raise funds for severely injured and sick lacrosse players and their families. The three-day event usually starts Friday night with a meet and greet with the Ambassadors at the Ritz Carlton. The next two days consist of a Speed Lacrosse Tournament on beautiful Siesta Key Beach featuring a pro game as well as boys’ and girls’ teams playing on the sand. I had attended the previous year and met Casey Powell, JoJo the War Drummer, Chris Mattes and Brendan Fowler. It was an incredible, albeit sunburned, time. This event places you around an incredible group of positive people. The infectious attitude is so powerful that you find yourself affected in the best way.
Crossing over the Skyway into Sarasota and making it to Siesta Key, I discovered that Hurricane Harvey forced the set-up time back in hopes of a break in the weather. The delay proved fortuitous and provided a window for set up to begin. Members arrived at the beach and began setting up registration, courts and merchandise venues, but the clouds opened up and heavy rains pushed back the start time. The registration and merchandise groups sought shelter under the picnic
areas while the court party found themselves trapped on the beach under a tent. In addition to rain, lighting soon became a serious concern as the court set-up crew used the tent as a giant umbrella to make their way off the beach. Safety and a flooded beach unfortunately necessitated canceling the first day. Faster than most NFL teams call audibles, O’Neil secured a venue at Gilligan’s for a sense of community. What occurred during the next moments impressed me as everyone made their way there and met the ambassadors to take part in my favorite pastime… talking lacrosse.
The ambassadors proved to be a who’s who of lacrosse with an impressive list of achievements. Casey Powell introduced the ambassadors and they included back-to-back MLL MVP Tom Schreiber, another wearer of the fabled Syracuse #22 jersey JoJo Marasco, all-American and ACC offensive player of the year Sergio Salcido, and Denver Outlaws mascot and superman JoJo War Drummer. Colleen Magarity, Kara Cannizzaro, Sammie Jo Tracy and Sloane Serpe made up the female ambassadors and represented a combined seven national championships between them compared to the men’s two. Good feelings and camaraderie pushed back the clouds and made the day seem brighter as everyone gathered under the banner of the World Lacrosse Foundation.
The weather failed to cooperate the following day as the beach remained flooded and the forecast called for more rain. The difficult decision to cancel failed to prevent Powell and O’Neil from gathering everyone at Lelu Coffee Lounge for the attendees to pick up their swag and win auction items like autographed gloves form Tom Schreiber and JoJo Marasco. While the weather failed to cooperate and Hurricane Harvey did his best to ruin the weekend, the look on the faces of the kids and adults as they met and spoke with the World Lacrosse Foundation ambassadors made it a bright day inside. The mission of the World Lacrosse Foundation is to inspire, share and support and they did just that. If you are not part of this organization, then reach out to them through their website and become a part of something bigger and better. I cannot wait for next year!