By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/26/09
There actually was more than just lacrosse played Saturday at the 9th Annual Katie Samson Lacrosse Festival at Radnor High.
Sure, there were 26 scholastic games and numerous youth games played in the largest single-day lacrosse event of the year anywhere in the US. But just as importantly, there were games played by wheelchair basketball and rugby players.
The games, accompanied by demonstrations on the sports, were organized by Katie Samson herself. Samson, who played wheelchair rugby for five years, played in a scrimmage with the Magee Eagles Rugby Team. A wheelchair basketball game also was played by the Magee 76ers.
The Katie Samson Festival and Katie Samson Foundation was created shortly after Katie suffered a serious spinal cord injury nine years ago in a sledding accident. A standout lacrosse player for NCAA Division III champion Middlebury College, Samson was determined to live her life to the fullest – and wheelchair sports became an outlet.
In nearly 10 years of existence, the Foundation and Festival have raised nearly $900,000 for spinal cord research and rehabilitation. Much of the reason is the spirit and leaderships demonstrated by Katie Samson.
“We wanted to highlight adaptive sports and show how fundraising can go to those sports in the Philadelphia area,” she said. “I’ve known the guys on the Philadelphia rugby team and rugby was a big part of my transition of coming to grips with my disability and realizing I can still play athletics and compete at a higher level.
“The people need to see where the fundraising is going.”
Samson said she took off from rugby this year – but had so much fun Saturday she may start playing again.
“I think being able to play today sort of gave me an itch to start playing again,” said Samson, who is living in Tucson, Ariz.
Samson also was thrilled Saturday to see the Festival grow even more. The field of 52 teams was four more than last year’s and dwarfs the first year’s field of 12. There were several thousand lacrosse enthusiasts came Saturday top watch lacrosse – including most of the top-ranked teams in the state – and participate in other activities like face painting and having their shot timed.
“To believe we have 52 teams after having 12 the first year is hard,” Samson said. “And to see the caliber of play in Southeast Pennsylvania is incredible.
“The crowds here are amazing. The stands are full. The people love to come out and celebrate the sport.”