Being a professional athlete is not just about playing the game you love at the highest level, it also involves being a positive role model in the community. Whether they are feeding the needy, bringing attention to their favorite cause or promoting the sport to underserved communities, MLL athletes make sure to do their part.
Nick Colleluori was the founder of the HEADstrong Foundation. He played lacrosse at Hofstra University as a freshman until he was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2005. HEADstrong is an organization that raises awareness about blood cancers, and helps others who suffer from the disease. Much like Nick, Major League Lacrosse players continue to give back to many different causes near and dear to them. Each month we will profile an MLL athlete that encompasses the same selfless core values Nick had and name them the HEADstrong Humanitarian of the Month.
This month, MLL recognizes Outlaws goalie Jesse Schwartzman for his outstanding contribution to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Kyle Norton is a kid who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis with complications. Out of all of the things he could have asked for through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the only thing Kyle wanted was to meet Denver’s Jesse Schwartzman.
“It was such an honor and it was very humbling that he picked me out of all of the other great athletes in the world.”
It is Schwartzman’s seventh season with the Outlaws, and he currently holds six MLL All-Star selections. He is also the All-Time leader in goalie wins with 62. In 2007 he was selected as the 29th overall pick in the MLL Collegiate Draft by Denver from Johns Hopkins University. As a senior, he received honorable mention preseason All-American honors and honorable mention STX/USILA All-American honors for the second year in a row. He was also named the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore. Despite all of his success on the field, Schwartzman has always been equally dedicated to the community outside of lacrosse.
“I think giving back is really important. At John Hopkins we spent a lot of time at the Children’s Hospital at Johns Hopkins. Anytime you can give back to someone in need, if you can help them just a little bit, it’s a good thing, and it’s really special.”
Initially Kyle, who lives in New York, was going to just meet the Outlaws at their game against the Lizards in August. But Schwartzman and the rest of the Outlaws “thought it would be a much better atmosphere, and we could do a lot more for him if he came out to a home game in Denver.” With the help of both the Colorado and New York chapters of the Foundation, Kyle and his family were able to fly out to Denver.
Schwartzman and the rest of his teammates made sure to give Kyle a true Outlaws experience. Last Friday night he watched the Denver practice, played catch with the athletes, and even broke down the team huddle at the end. After practice he got to meet the whole team and hang out with everyone. This was all in preparation for the big game against the Rattlers on Saturday.
Schwartzman recalls Kyle returning the next day: “Before the game he was in the locker room and he had his personalized locker right next to us, right next to me and Anthony Kelly, with his name on a jersey. It was really special, and he had a great time and I think he really brought us some extra emotion.”
Kyle hung out with the team in the locker room, spent the game on the bench with players, and then celebrated with an ice cream party in the team locker room. “It was a real honor to hang out with Kyle”, says Schwartzman, “and I can’t wait to do it again soon.”
Thanks to the enthusiasm and welcoming attitude of Schwartzman and his fellow teammates, Kyle’s visit with Outlaws was an event he will never forget. The importance of giving back is a concept that Schwartzman understands and supports, as he experienced both with Kyle and with other kids in the past how much of a difference you can make in someone’s life just by taking an interest in them.
“With social media you’re seeing a lot of pictures and you can follow what people do, but there’s nothing like that face to face interaction”, says Schwartzman. He continued explaining that giving back to the community was really important, because it “makes you put things into perspective and realize you can’t take things for granted.”
From college to professional sports, Schwartzman continuously exhibits his participation in community service. His love for meeting and helping people in need is a quality that sets him a part, and is the reason he is May’s HEADstrong Humanitarian of the Month.