Players raise $3,000 for family that lost home in fire

HUNTERSVILLE – Most sports tournaments are about steep competition and battling it out for a clear winner. But during a recent middle school lacrosse tournament, the participants were set on one goal – to raise money for a Huntersville family who lost its home in a January fire.

SouthLake Christian Academy lacrosse coach Bryan Howlin organized the Lake Norman Lacrosse Jamboree. Team participants included Denver Lacrosse, Hickory Lacrosse, Lake Norman Alliance, St. Mark Catholic, Winkler Middle School, Harris Road Middle School, Carolina Miners and SouthLake Christian.

The April 5 event raised an estimated $3,000 for the Spano family.

“The tournament was to bring kids together for a day of fun, fellowship and help the Spanos,” Denver Lacrosse coach Bryan Simmons said. “A coach can’t ask for better than that. It was the perfect opportunity for the kids to compete, have a great time and at the same time help someone else.”

Howlin said the idea of hosting the tournament was so players of all skill levels could come together to enjoy the game. At the same time, he learned of the plight of the Spano family since his wife and Pam Spano work together at SouthLake Christian. He added the fundraising component to show how athletes can make a difference in the community.

Artisan Graphics and Lax World sponsored the event, and referees donated their time. Steve Franco and Alex Wadkovsky, both of Denver, taught clinics. Each team played three shortened games followed by an all-star game featuring players from all of the teams. The Carolina Miners remained undefeated and the all-stars had a high scoring game, ending 8-4.

“All of the teams there were evenly matched, but there were two teams that could play for high schools, they are so far above,” Simmons said. “But they all had the same attitude. It would have been easy to have swagger, but they all were respectful. To have players, coaches and parents all act like adults, it can be rare.”

Throughout the day, Howlin said announcers reminded participants about the fundraising component. The family of five lost everything and is still working toward a new normalcy.

“They are a respected family,” Howlin said. “As a community, we are with them on the road to recovery.”

While many of the players and their families didn’t personally know the Spanos, the idea of helping a local family resonated with them.

“It’s hard to hear about someone in the community and not try to help,” said Simmons, whose boys knew the couple's children. “I can’t conceive what it would be like to lose everything. … It hit home to the Denver team because someone in Denver’s house burned down a few months ago, who was friends with a lot of the players. They knew they were going to help someone else.”

Conduct like that is common for teams both on and off the field. Unlike other sports he’s participated in and coached, Simmons said lacrosse is unique in that players come together after games are over.

“In other sports, one team wins and is high-fiving, and then the other team that loses grumbles and goes home,” Simmons said.  “In lacrosse, when the game is over, you all come together and go out to eat.”

It’s also another way the game teaches life skills.

“I talk to the guys about respecting each other and the game of lacrosse,” Simmons said. “I tell them no one remembers who won a game three years ago, but to help someone else, you remember forever.”