By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/22/14
Once again, the memory of Evan Brady’s inspiration shined bright on the Philadelphia lacrosse community and beyond as more than 200 people attended the 3rd Annual Evanfest Lacrosse Dinner Thursday at Drexelbrook.
Legendary Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala was the special guest speaker as the community rallied to raise funds for Evanfest, an all-volunteer foundation that provides money and support to families that have a child battling a life-threatening illness.
The event also featured a silent auction and raffle. More than $800,000 has been raised in eight years to honor the spirit of Evan Brady, a talented lacrosse player who lost his life to bone cancer shortly after graduating from Malvern Prep in 2005.
The emcee again was Philly Hall of Famer Brian Dougherty (All-World goalie, multiple NCAA, club and World champion and Chestnut Hill College head coach). Other speakers were Evan’s high school friend, goalie Chris Marcozzi, who overcame illnesses to become a two-time captain at Franklin and Marshall; and Jennifer Egg, an Oncology social worker who has helped patients that benefit from funds raised through Evanfest at the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital.
“You stand in the room we were just in and it’s quite impressive,” said Pietramala in an interview, speaking of the gathering. “You look around and it’s a bit of a who’s who in Pennsylvania lacrosse. There are guys from my era of playing and fathers of kids playing now.
“It’s impressive what they’ve done in such a short period of time. And to put this kind of event together for such a great cause and such a good reason is very special.”
The Evanfest youth lacrosse tournament is held every April. With the help of more than 100 volunteers, Evanfest brings at least 40 teams in the U13 and U15 divisions to Malvern Prep. Evan’s father, Bill Brady, created Evanfest and is joined by a team of Evan’s friends and teammates that organize the banquet.
Pietramala – who has coached several of Evan’s friends at Hopkins, and also Malvern Prep grad and event volunteer Matt Mackrides as a member of the United States National Team – said the banquet has quickly evolved into a major event.
“No. 1, I think it brings awareness to the tragedy of what took place,” Pietramala said, “but No. 2 it brings the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania lacrosse community together for a common cause to grow the sport, and more importantly, to create opportunities and ways to help others.
“I think it says a lot for this lacrosse community that they do this.
“This is my first time at the event. I can’t tell you how impressed I am to see this. To have this kind of turnout – for the Malvern Prep community – and equally for the Philadelphia lacrosse community, is amazing.”
Pietramala, in his speech, focused on another motivating role model, U.S. Army Special Forces Captain and Green Beret Ben Harrow, a former lacrosse standout at the United States Military Academy who has become a national hero since losing his legs while on tour in Afghanistan several years ago.
Marcozzi, a star goalie at Malvern when Evan was graduating, suffered several illnesses when he enrolled at Franklin and Marshall and did not know if he’s be able to play lacrosse again. But Evan, who had served as a volunteer coach during his years at Malvern because he was unable to play through his cancer, had provided the inspiration to Marcozzi as his confidant and mentor.
“I wanted to go back to playing,” Marcozzi told the gathering. “But I had been bed-ridden for four weeks and I had to re-learn how to walk.
“I didn’t know if it was possible. But I remembered what Evan went through and what he persevered through. That brought inspiration to me. I redshirted and then started my remaining three seasons and was voted a team captain twice and I try to think of how I did that.
“I constantly wore an ‘EB 19’ sticker on my helmet. I brought Evan out on the field with me every day. A lot of people in this room can tell stories about how he inspired us. I share my story tonight – and I had so much support from family and friends – but I wanted to show the impact Evan has had and continues to have on my life.
“I wanted to tell how how his hardship and perseverance set the example for my own recovery.”