By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/24/08
It is a celebration of lacrosse and the spirit of competition.
And what better way to celebrate the nation’s fastest growing sport than to raise money for medical research and care for spinal cord patients and do it by collecting the finest array of scholastic lacrosse talent possible?
Saturday at Radnor High School, the 8th Annual Katie Samson Lacrosse Festival will showcase 48 top boys’ and girls’ public and private teams from the Philadelphia and surrounding area.
The Festival was devised to promote sportsmanship and camaraderie throughout the Philadelphia lacrosse community. It has grown into such a major event that approximately $800,000 has been raised for research and short-term aid for patients of spinal cord injury.
Organized by volunteers from the Philadelphia regional lacrosse community and the Katie Samson Foundation, the event is inspired by the courage and resolve of a former lacrosse player who has taught us all about abilities, not disabilities.
Katie Samson, a 1998 Radnor High graduate, led Middlebury College to a Division III national title in 1999. The following winter she suffered spinal cord trauma in a sledding accident, paralyzing her from the chest down.
Samson’s life changed, but not her determination and spirit. She rehabilitated herself, returned to Middlebury and continued as a Dean’s list student and helped coach her team to two more NCAA championships.
Samson graduated cum laude with a double major in anthropology and art history and was nominated by college friends to carry the Olympic torch towards the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
Today, Samson resides in Arizona and volunteers for the Aurora Foundation, a non-profit that supports young women with disabilities through leadership programs and mentoring. She also teaches photography at a community college and has continued to participate in sports.
“We are proud to be able to support research and also to improve the quality of life of folks with spinal cord injuries,” said Dr. Murray Grossman, the Katie Samson Foundation President. “It’s a devastating condition, but there are tons and tons of things that can be done.
“Katie is enthusiastic and she wants to go ahead and live her life. She’s an inspiration in that regard.”
This year’s field of teams is the largest ever. For the first time, the boys and girls will play at the same site; the boys formerly played at Haverford School. This field is also loaded with talent as all 10 teams in the Phillylacrosse.com Boys Top 10 and seven of the teams in the Phillylacrosse.com Girls Top 10 will be competing.
The action heats up immediately at 9:30 a.m. with six games, including a girls’ game between No. 3 Springfield-Delco and No. 7 Episcopal Academy (Turf field).
At 11:30 the feature boys’ game will pit No. 1 La Salle – the fourth-ranked team in the country according to Inside Lacrosse – and No. 4 Ridley (Prevost field). Also at 11:30, the No. 1 girls’ team, host Radnor, meets Germantown Academy.
Then, at 1:30, there is a boys’ game between No. 3 Haverford School and No. 7 Downingtown East. At 3:30, the No. 6 Conestoga boys meet New Jersey prep power Lawrenceville School.
On the girls’ side, No. 5 Abington faces Lawrenceville at 1:30 and No. 4 Great Valley meets Agnes Irwin at 3:30.
The Festival is being tabbed as one of the biggest one-day lacrosse events ever on the East Coast.
“We have tried to feature local teams,” Grossman said. “We’ve had requests from New York to Baltimore, but we wanted to keep it local.”
“We feel strongly that we wanted to highlight local teams. Gradually, over the years, there have been lots and lots of demand for people to participate.”
The Festival started with six boys’ games, all pitting private and public schools. Four years ago girls’ games were added; first they were played at Haverford College and then at Radnor. Now, for the first time, all games are at one venue.
“It’s the first year it’s all together at one site and it’s very exciting,” Grossman said. “All the schools played consecutively, so the girls can play and then watch the boys’ game for their school and cheer them on. Conversely, so can the boys. Normally, they don’t get to do that.”
The event is expected to draw over 5,000 people. Grossman said that several former Philadelphia professionals should be on hand, including former Eagles lineman Mike Mamula and former Flyers captain Keith Primeau. Members of the Philadelphia Wings professional lacrosse team also are expected.
Additionally, many college coaches will be on hand to see the best that Philadelphia has to offer in lacrosse.
Samson will be at her alma mater and be a part of two presentations, one at 11:30 a.m. and another at 1:30 p.m.
Younger fans can enjoy a variety of games at the Fan Zone, which will be stationed at both ends of the campus. The Fan Zone will features speed shooting, wall climbing, face painting and other events.
There also will be plenty of refreshments.
Grossman wanted to cite event organizers Bill German, Kathy Early, Mike Barnes and Claire Girton for their tireless efforts to run the Festival.
“This began as a way of thanking Peter Samson for all his support and contributions to the community,” said Grossman of Katie’s father, “and, of course, because we all love Katie.”