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John Jay Game For a Special Cause

Posted Wednesday, March 23, 2011 by laxlessons.com
 Families, neighbors, friends, acquaintances, local business owners and others in Westchester County and the Hudson Valley will come together the first weekend in April to generate awareness about ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) while raising money with the hope of finding treatments and a cure for this devastating and debilitating illness.

The April 1 nighttime fundraiser – Party for a Cause – at the Salem Golf Club (North Salem, NY) with a live band for entertainment as well as a silent auction, will lead into the scheduled events on Saturday, April 2 – Lacrosse for a Cause – that includes a specialized Lacrosse clinic followed by the highly anticipated kick-off game of the regular season with the Men’s Varsity team rivals from John Jay HS and Yorktown HS.  All proceeds from Party for a Cause and Lacrosse for a Cause will benefit Outreach ALS Foundation of Westchester, a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit corporation based in Mount Kisco, NY.

Outreach ALS Foundation of Westchester is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to helping individuals and families affected with ALS by providing support services, raising money for medical research and generating awareness about this disease.

Party for a Cause will be held on Friday, April 1 from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. at the Salem Golf Club in North Salem, NY, with guests invited for dinner, an open bar cocktail hour, wine and beer served throughout the night and live music provided by the Lewisboro-based band The RockBrokers.

In addition, a silent-auction of prominent items including sports, celebrity and movie memorabilia, as well as merchandise donated from local businesses will be up for bidding.  The ticket price for Party for a Cause is $125.00 per person and can be purchased on-line at www.outreachals.org or by sending a check to Outreach ALS Foundation of Westchester, P.O. Box 593, Mount Kisco, NY  10549.

On Saturday, April 2 at 4:30 p.m. a Youth Lacrosse Clinic will be led by John Jay and Yorktown Alumni at the John Jay Turf Field, 60 North Salem Road, Cross River, NY.  The afternoon of instruction is targeted for new players interested in learning more about the sport as well as athletes who have played lacrosse and would like to improve their skills.

The drills will vary from basic ball handling (catching, cradling, scooping, passing and shooting techniques) to more advanced maneuvers.  Equipment must be provided by the attendees and will not be available for rental on the day of the Clinic.  The cost to register for the Lacrosse Clinic is $25 and payment
can be made ahead of time at www.jjyl.org.

After the Youth Lacrosse Clinic and beginning at 7  p.m. at the John Jay Turf Field will be the highly anticipated first game of the boys varsity lacrosse regular season with the rival teams John Jay High School and Yorktown High School.  The talent, energy and commitment from the players combined with the enthusiasm and excitement from the fans will make this a game that should not be missed by anyone in the community. All gate proceeds will go to the Outreach ALS Foundation.

For those who cannot attend either Party for a Cause or Lacrosse for a Cause but would like to make a donation to support the efforts of Outreach ALS Foundation of Westchester, checks can be sent to Outreach ALS Foundation of Westchester, P.O. Box 593, Mount Kisco, NY  10549 or contributions will be accepted on-line at www.outreachals.org.

Letter from John Cunniffe

Last April, after months of testing, I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Diagnosis is a process of elimination as there is not one test that provides a conclusive diagnosis, and without a thorough process there is oftentimes a misdiagnosis. Approximately 5,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. The majority of the afflicted are over 50 years old. However, people of all ages are impacted.  There is no known cause or cure for ALS.

Along with the cruelty and devastation of living with this disease, there have been many blessings. One of these is the opportunity to meet some truly inspirational people. A few include the 24-year-old patient that is spending a great deal of his energy uniting the fundraising efforts nationwide to find a cure; the man with advanced ALS who designs apartment buildings for those impacted by the disease; the young woman, a Navy veteran, also with advanced ALS who is skiing, rock climbing and challenging herself and the disease every opportunity she gets.

There is Augie Nieto, who, along with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), is fundraising like no other to find a cure. Augie is a patient that has leveraged his successful business acumen into being a nationwide force in awareness and fundraising for ALS.

There are so many patients and family members that I have met that are unbelievably courageous and inspiring. I hope people will take the time to understand the disease and what patients are able to do in spite of it.

With the relatively low number of people diagnosed each year comes the challenge of raising the dollars needed to develop a cure. There are wonderful private organizations that spend every waking hour working on raising money and conducting research to find a cure and/or develop a medicine to slow the progress. Some public funding has come from areas of the Government, including the Department of Defense. There is a link between ALS and serving in the Military as some veterans, such as those from the Persian Gulf War, are more likely to be diagnosed.

With that said, today there is still no known cause and cure, which is hard for me to fathom. Finding the cure has been very much a grassroots effort. With every patient diagnosed comes a family, a community that joins in the effort to find the cure. This effort does not stop with the passing of their loved one, the fight continues and the resolve does not diminish.  I have seen this first hand with many families.

One only has to spend a little time with the Meredith and Valerie Estess to see what I am referring to. They started Project ALS after their sister Jennifer was diagnosed and they work tirelessly each day to find the cure.  ALS/TDI is another unbelievable organization started by a sibling that is committed to finding efficacious medicine for today’s patients.

Many have asked, “How can I help?”  Patients need to know that every effort is being made to stop this disease, we need hope.  We also need to know that our medical needs are going to be taken care of and that our family’s needs are met at the same time.  This is a big burden for many ALS patients.  Donating to Project ALS or ALS/TDI goes a long way for research and finding a cure. There are organizations that provide direct assistance – the MDA has an ALS division that raises funds nationwide and provides assistance for patients.  I am a veteran of the Persian Gulf War and the VA has helped with my needs. Still, this is not always enough, and a local family is doing something about it.

In 2006, Denise and Mark Rattner were given devastating news- twice.  They learned that someone very near and dear to their hearts had been diagnosed with ALS.  They also were told that another friend had the same illness.  At that time, with determination, focus, sincerity and compassion, they made a commitment to fight this debilitating disease.  In the Spring of 2008, along with a group of dedicated volunteers, the Outreach ALS Foundation of Westchester was established to reach out and help, and try to make a difference both for those affected and for the families who help care for them.

Mark and Denise are incredible with their tireless efforts to help those locally impacted by the disease. Like so many other critical illnesses, when you are diagnosed with something, you start hearing about others that have the same disease.

I am amazed at the number of people in our community that have been impacted by ALS.  Each year, Mark and Denise hold a fundraiser to assist local families. This year a two day fundraising event will kick off with “Party for a Cause” on Friday, April 1 and “Lacrosse for a Cause” on Saturday, April 2. Details can be found at www.outreachals.org

“Lacrosse for a Cause” will be a very special evening for me personally. This will include the annual rivalry between John Jay and Yorktown.   I played for John Jay back in the ’80s and had the privilege to play Yorktown in the section final. Yorktown went on to win the States that year. I continued my lacrosse career playing at West Point for Army and was fortunate to have five players from Yorktown on that team my freshman year.  These are two special programs as the kids that play on these teams appreciate the tradition and realize the accomplishments of those who came before them and how hard they had to work for success.

Yorktown has decades of outstanding players, coaches and team accomplishments. John Jay has built its program to national recognition on the strong foundations established by Bob Kear, Nick Savastano and now Tim Schurr (all with Yorktown ties).

Thanks also go to families like the Bocklets that have had a very strong positive influence on the program over the last decade. I have gotten great fulfillment coaching for the John Jay Youth Lacrosse organization and my first team from seven years ago has several players on the varsity squad. I am so proud of this group of John Jay seniors!

Lacrosse has meant so much to me over the years. I am sure all of those that have built these programs, including my favorite, the late Mr. Murph (Yorktown lacrosse co-founder Charlie Murphy) would tell you that the game of lacrosse and these two programs have given back far more than any individual can possibly give.

I feel the same way and am blessed to have the opportunity to play for John Jay and against Yorktown. At halftime I will be inducted with three other lacrosse players into the John Jay High School Hall of Fame. What an honor, I am thrilled.

In closing, I would like to thank all of those who have helped me and my family. This community is terrific, West Point alumni have rallied to help and John Jay (lacrosse and school) has reached out and helped an old grad. I will never forget. Please attend on April 1st and 2nd and/or go online towww.outreachals.org to make a donation or register for the dinner fundraiser.

Thank you,

John Cunniffe

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