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Our First LtN Experiences: Summer Interns Talk

Only a short two weeks ago, we landed in Bocas del Toro ready to learn, experience and assist in all aspects of LtN programs. So far, it’s been awesome. From how to organize practice plans to understanding the value of community engagement and trust, our interns have seen so much. We spend our mornings going on runs along the water, our days with kids at practice and the local school, and our nights binging Netflix together and learning how to cook for a house of 6. By the time we reach the weekend, we are grateful for the time to explore the islands, bike around town, and catch up on some Z’s. Being able to bounce new program ideas off of each other has brought us many laughs and much learning. Here are our initial reactions of LtN in Bocas and what we are excited for over the next couple months...


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Gunnar: “I’m excited to see the day-to-day of living and working here. From how to effectively get in touch with the community and help serve their needs to how a nonprofit operates, all elements are important to me - no matter how little.”

Will: “As the primary intern in charge of fundraising, I am working on growing our LtN network this summer. Learning more about how LtN connects various teams and programs to grow the game has been a really cool experience. I am blown away by how invested our supporters are in our mission and by the interest I have seen from those wanting to get involved.”

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Jordan: “In my first two weeks I have seen how lacrosse extends beyond the field and brings joy, structure, and learning to kids. For example, one of our players was awarded his very own lacrosse stick due to showing respect, teamwork, and consistent effort at practice. His face lit up! Knowing the influence this sport can have on so many lives makes me really pumped for this summer.”

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Rob: “The positive attitudes of kids and their desire to learn each and every day has really been inspiring. Not only do they exemplify the impact that LtN’s programs can have on a community, but the positivity and engagement of the kids open the door for further growth. As the lead intern for our Community Outreach element, I am excited to work with the community and continue mutually beneficial work here in Panama.” 

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Rachel: “Seeing the passion that our young players have for the sport makes me even more excited to share my love of the game with them and continue to grow the sport through LtN.

Program Director, Maria: “The kids at practice are so helpful and patient with me as I begin to develop my Spanish skills that it makes every day that much more fun! I am truly learning virtually every minute of every day.” 





LtN Impact: Physical Limitations Can't Limit Eybar

LtN Impact: Physical Limitations Can’t Limit Eybar

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Eybar arrived to the Bocas Community Center where we hold practices one afternoon in November with his brother. It was during a group trip, and I was sitting on the porch of the community center with Karen (one of our volunteers visiting with the group).  Karen noticed Eybar eagerly watching everyone play pick up before practice, so she asked him if he was interested in playing. Eybar shook his head “no”.

Polaroid photos of Caroline, Karen, and Eybar on Eybar’s first day of lacrosse in Bocas del Toro.

Polaroid photos of Caroline, Karen, and Eybar on Eybar’s first day of lacrosse in Bocas del Toro.

I should probably mention before moving forward with my story that Eybar has physical limitations, but by no means do they limit him. Eybar uses a wheelchair.

Not being able to communicate in Spanish, Karen used creativity to express a powerful message to Eybar. She pulled up a video from youtube of wheelchair lacrosse and we asked if he would watch with us. Eybar began watching the video and his eyes lit up with excitement.  He became so engrossed in the video that he leaned over to get closer to the screen and almost fell into Karen’s lap. Seeing the enormous smile on Eybar’s face almost brought tears to my eyes, I had never seen someone become so empowered by something.

After watching the video, we asked Eybar again if he wanted to play.  This time he responded by immediately reaching for my stick. I put him in his wheelchair and took him out to the beach so he could experience the new game he just discovered.

We started out with everyone’s favorite drill, steal the bacon. At first, Eybar asked me if I would wheel him around. I gladly accepted his request and when his number was called, I would wheel him out to go after the ball. His determination was striking.  I could not keep up. He was so fierce, constantly wanting to attack and go after the ball. After that drill my face hurt from smiling and laughing so hard. It was such a joy seeing Eybar having what seemed like the time of his life. It didn’t take long until he took the field on his own.

“After a water break, I asked if he wanted to play in the scrimmage. He replied that he wanted to sit out for a little. Only five minutes later came the most powerful moment I may have witnessed.”

Eybar - AKA the Ninja in Goal.

Eybar - AKA the Ninja in Goal.

After a water break, Eybar was watching the scrimmage from the sideline when I noticed his face overcome with this determined look.  He slowly removed himself from his wheelchair and grabbed a stick from the bag. He was heading to the field. You could see it in his eyes, he was not stopping until he got to our 3x practice goal. When he arrived at the cage, he positioned himself in front of the net, declaring himself the designated goalie for the rest of practice. Every time someone came up with the ball he immediately shouted, demanding the ball in his stick. He would dive to save shots, eager to get the ball any point it was remotely close to him. This kid was a ninja.

After practice was over, I went to sit on the steps.  Eybar came over with an orange and sat next to me asking if I would like to share with him.  We sat on the steps for a couple minutes just talking and eating the orange, when suddenly I felt arms clench around my waist.  He leaned closer to my ear and said, “gracias”. I struggled to hold back tears.

This is a moment I will hold on to for the rest of my life. There were many factors that led to Eybar’s discovery that day, from our determined and caring volunteers to our supportive players who now call themselves Eybar’s teammates. If not for Karen’s brilliant idea, Eybar may have never included himself in practice that day.

Teammate and friend, Anthony, posing with Caroline and Eybar after practice.

Teammate and friend, Anthony, posing with Caroline and Eybar after practice.

Watching Eybar transform from a discouraged kid to a fearless warrior on the field reminded me of what this program means and why it started. Sure, the sport itself is fun. But, it is so much more than that. I love getting to teach lacrosse in a community that has no prior knowledge of what the sport is.  From my time here in Panama, I see examples of it every day. We use this sport to empower and motivate kids like Eybarto believe in themselves and build the confidence to try new things.

— Caroline Rath, LtN Panama Program Director

A Letter of Thanks: Will Cogan on his Trip to Panama

My name is Will Cogan and I am a senior defenseman at Christopher Newport University. A few weeks ago, I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to Bocas del Toro, Panama to work with kids and spread the game that I love. I did this with teammates and members of the Washington & Lee men’s and women’s lacrosse team.

Will and CNU teammate, Miles, coaching some beach lax in Bocas.

Will and CNU teammate, Miles, coaching some beach lax in Bocas.

This experience is something that I will never forget. In my 15 years of playing lacrosse, this was by far the most rewarding, humbling, and unforgettable experience I have had in the game of lacrosse. Each day we woke up with the opportunity to positively impact high schoolers and young kids with the game that we love so much. Knowing that every day would give us an opportunity to teach a game that these kids have never seen before seemed challenging at first, but once we had the stick in our hands it was just like any other day for us. We got to teach kids how to catch, throw, scoop ground balls, and even fun games like hungry hungry hippo. Whether it was at the local high school or at the Give & Surf community center on the beach it was a week filled with smiles, laughs, and a whole lot of fun.

Will testing out his goalie skills alongside fellow volunteer and W&L Women's Coach, Erica.

Will testing out his goalie skills alongside fellow volunteer and W&L Women's Coach, Erica.

I want to express how thankful I am of the Lacrosse the Nations staff (Caroline and Brooke) and the Give & Surf staff (Drew and Taylor) for giving us such an amazing experience. Drew and Taylor taught us so much about the communities of Bocas and Bastimentos, and as took us on many adventures that I will never forget. Brooke and Caroline showed us that you do not need to speak the same language in order to connect with young kids and teach the game that we love.

I hope that LtN can continue to grow their programs in Bocas del Toro, and that it remains a place to go for years to come. I STRONGLY encourage any lacrosse player, coach, or fan to go on a trip with Lacrosse the Nations, to experience what its like to give back to a sport that has given us so much. Thank you LtN and Give & Surf.

 

- Will Cogan

CNU Mens Lacrosse '19

LtN Programs in Charlottesville Flourish Thanks to LtN Club at UVA

Lacrosse the Nations at the University of Virginia started off strong this past August with the executive board recruiting over 15 new members to join the club. Our efforts for the semester focused on balancing between fundraising for the annual LtN Cup and youth volunteering efforts, namely the recurring six-week long lacrosse program held at the Boys and Girls Club of Charlottesville on Cherry Avenue. Because of the success of the Cherry Avenue program in past years, and with the new influx of volunteer members, a new program was extended to the Boys and Girls Club at Jouett Middle School through outreach with their program director. From the first week of October to the week before Thanksgiving, around four to five volunteers traveled to each Boys and Girls Club every week - Cherry Avenue on Tuesdays, Jouett on Fridays. For a time frame about an hour and a half, our volunteer coaches focused on getting to know the kids that frequently attended the program, while teaching them basic lacrosse skills, ultimately providing a new sport-related platform that allowed them to build their individual characters. Our Club at UVA plans to repeat this same six-week program in the spring of 2018, at both Boys and Girls Clubs, with hopes of adding multiple pop-up clinics during the spring that would be open to all Charlottesville youth community members. 

 

In volunteering at the Clubs, we also realized that the equipment the Clubs had on hand were in pretty rough shape - some sticks had broken heads, others had ancient mesh. Lacrosse the Nations has generously offered to help with providing new sticks to replace these old and worn-down sticks that the Boys and Girls Club currently has in supply.

 

Fundraising for the LtN Cup within our Club at UVA was done primarily through individual efforts - and proved to be an amazingly successful endeavor. Of the over $1300 raised, the majority of what was raised came from individual members’ outreach to family, friends, and members of the lacrosse community. In addition to these individual efforts, a lump amount of $500 was also contributed through older funds raised from a 5k race and several student restaurant nights hosted by LtN at UVA. We hope to expand our fundraising to involve the club men and women’s lacrosse teams at UVA, and even local high school teams, in order to further solidify the Charlottesville lacrosse community.

 

Future plans for our Club, other than continuing our current volunteering and fundraising efforts, also include promotional and educational events to not only promote our organization, but to also educate UVA students on how to involve themselves in international service in an effective and worthwhile manner. Whether this is accomplished through an open seminar, guest speakers, or a university-wide presentation, we hope that our club can prove to not only be a fundamental piece of the international Lacrosse the Nations presence, but also a model for other college organizations with a focus on local and international service.

Player Spotlight: Guissell

Meet this month's spotlight player, Guissell! Guissell started playing lacrosse in Nicaragua alongside her older brother, Ariel, three years ago. Guissell is one of our most dedicated players. Despite her brother's inability to attend practices due to his university commitments, Guissell has attended close to every practice this past year. Guissell constantly exhibits a love for the game. She actively asks to help coach new players and is the first one to put on her equipment and jump on the field. Guissell plans to attend university after graduating high school this year. 

Age: 16

Year in school: 11th grade

Favorite Class: Physics

Favorite part of Lacrosse: Learning new drills and activities at practice

Something you have learned from lacrosse: "I've learned that if you respect your teammates they will in turn give you respect."