The Toll Gate and Warwick Vets boys’ lacrosse teams have been going in different directions this season, but they’ll come together on Thursday in support of something much more important than lacrosse.
For the second straight season, the rivalry showdown between the two teams will be played for a cause – the HEADstrong Foundation –and the teams will participate in a Lime Out, meaning the players, coaches, refs and fans will all wear lime-colored apparel.
Sticks, socks, armbands, shoelaces, the penalty flags and maybe even the ball will all be lime green, as the ’Canes and Titans try to raise money for the foundation, which “heads effort to improve quality of life for those affected by blood cancers and supporting those working to eliminate the diseases.”
Green is the foundation’s official color, and the proceeds from ticket sales and other gear sold at the game, plus shirts that will be sold in the two schools during the week, will go toward the cause.
“It’s a great cause, and the kids walked away from it last year having had a great experience,” said Vets head coach Fred Schweizer. “We talked about it for a while, and they still wear their gear. It really had a positive impact on them. For me as a coach, that’s more important than any x’s and o’s and wins and losses.”
The game, which the teams hope to turn into an annual tradition, and the charity they’re raising money for have special meaning to Toll Gate head coach Mike Vadney, who lost his mother to multiple myeloma 10 years ago.
That was the inspiration for dedicating the game to the disease and sending the donations to HEADstrong.
“It’s been 10 years since my mom lost her battle with cancer,” Vadney said. “If we weren’t going to do it for any other reason, we were going to do it to commemorate my mom and what she went through, hopefully so that others don’t have to.”
Last year, Vets won the game 10-6, but more importantly the event raised close to $3,000 for the HEADstrong Foundation.
That’s the goal again, as the shirts are going on sale this week in the schools, and donations of any quantity are greatly encouraged.
“It was a great experience last year,” Vadney said. “The second time around you kind of learn from the first. I got a really nice letter from the HEADstrong Foundation, just complimenting us on what we were able to accomplish. That was really nice.”
It’s a big day for lacrosse in the city, as the cause adds another layer to what is already an intense rivalry. Both teams play in Division III, and with Pilgrim just getting a boys’ club team off the ground this year, Vets and Toll Gate are the only public-school varsity programs in the city.
So far this year, Toll Gate is 4-1, while Vets is 2-5.
Vadney and Schweizer will have to wear two hats for the game – keeping the players aware of the cause and its importance, but also getting them ready to play a meaningful division contest against a rival.
“We do our best to get them excited about the cause, and putting together what we do for the lime out,” Schweizer said. “But as coaches you have to be able to reign them back in when the whistle blows and keep them focused. Because it’s such an intense rivalry, I don’t think we’ll have a difficult time reigning them back in and getting them to focus on the game.”
It hasn’t taken much effort to get the players excited. After the success of last year’s game and the outpouring of support, players from both sides were hoping it was going to happen again this season.
“The kids keep asking, ‘Coach, are we going to do the lime out game again?’ May came up on us quick,” Vadney said. “I managed to actually touch base with the foundation last week, and they were great. They’re going to have all the gear out to us.”
Both teams have busy weeks leading up to the game, as Toll Gate was scheduled to play Monday and Tuesday, while Vets was scheduled for a game on Monday.
It’ll all be building towards the week’s main event on Thursday, where the community can come together for an important game, and a very important cause.
“I think it’s bigger than my mom,” Vadney said. “I would rather have it be about those that are battling blood cancer now and what we can do for them.”
The second annual Lime Out game will be played at Toll Gate on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.