By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/28/12
Four years of growth and inspiration were celebrated Saturday when LEAPS Lax celebrated the 3rd Annual Friends and Benefits Pro Charity Game and Youth Play Day at Chestnut Hill College’s Victory Field at the Plymouth Whitemarsh High campus.
The event featured a boys’ and girls’ clinic and exhibition games between LEAPS girls’ All-Stars and the Quaker City Lacrosse Club as well as LEAPS boys’ All-Stars and Twin Valley High’s club team. The event was capped by a Pro Charity Game that featured several former pros, former Philly high school and college standouts and current college players.
LEAPS (Lacrosse, Education, Attitude, Perseverance & Success) is grass-roots non-profit that has helped build lacrosse programs and teams in Philadelphia, Camden and Wilmington and other inner-city and under-served communities. Its impact has been felt most in the Philadelphia Public League, which has full leagues for boys and girls and may grow to more than 10 boys’ teams in 2013.
“It’s funny, when I got here this morning the Northeast (players) were already here,” said co-founder Eric Gregg, who along with Billy McKinney and John Christmas have run and built the program. “A couple coaches asked, ‘Who are those guys?’
“The level of improvement is unbelievable. I remember three years ago and we went to Northeast and we couldn’t get anybody to come out and play. Now, Roxborough is starting up (a team) and their coach was here today; Frankford is starting up and their coach was here, West Philadelphia is starting up and their coach was here.
“Today, the Northeast and George Washington teams have kids visiting colleges and going to showcases to get recruited. It means the world to me to provide that opportunity that was provided to me when I was young. I want to keep that going.”
The Charity game can been seen on accesslacrosse.com
Gregg said he wanted to thank the many others that have helped LEAPS in its challenge of building programs despite steep financial roadblocks. He mentioned the support provided from the Philadelphia Public League and athletic director Robert Coleman as well as do-it-all coach and director John Benci (Del Val Charter) and coach Frank Kerwood (Northeast) as well as Tina Sloan Green (Black Women in Sports Foundation) and the Philadelphia Lacrosse Association for its tremendous financial support.
Benci and Kerwood also were instrumental in organizing and refereeing at Saturday’s event.
In all, 35 kids participated in the clinic and teachers served as coaches. Volunteers for the event included Conestoga Varsity girls, St. Joseph’s Varsity, the Duke’s LC, and LEAPS Wilmington.
“This is not a coincidence,” said Gregg, who also thanked the men’s players for volunteering their time for the Charity game. “Thanks to John Benzi and Frank Kerwin and Robert Coleman, Tina Sloan Green, the PLA; you can go on and on and on. These people have helped me and John and Billy go into schools and interact with kids.
“We have shown them the sport is something different. And it’s more than just the sport. It’s a chance to be active and to be healthy and to have fun.
“It was a treat to come out and play with them this afternoon.”