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Boys’ lax Festival honors Brian Houshower’s spirit

Friday, 24th October 2008

Categories Boy's/Men's, High School  

By Chris Goldberg, Posted 10/24/08

Joan Ferrere said her son, Brian Houshower, was known perhaps most for his smile.

“Brian was basically a friend to everybody,” she said. “He loved to laugh and have a good time. It didn’t matter who he was with, he always went with them and was the type of person that a big smile on his face and kind words for other people.”

Houshower, a budding lacrosse star and a sophomore at Downingtown West, died Nov. 10, 2003, at the age of 16 in a car accident down the road from his home in East Brandywine Township, Chester County. His death sent shockwaves throughout the Downingtown community, but his energy and spirit live on, especially on the lacrosse field.

On Saturday, Nov, 1 (the event was originally slated for Saturday, Oct. 25 and has been pushed back due to the threat of foul weather), Downingtown West will host the 5th Annual Brian Houshower Lacrosse Festival. The event, sponsored by the Downingtown West Boosters Club, will feature 22 boys’ lacrosse club teams competing in two divisions in 10v10 championship format.

Games begin at 9 a.m. and championship games will be held at 3 p.m. Proceeds go to the Brian Houshower Scholarship Fund and youth lacrosse programs in the area.

Ferrere said Brian was a rare teenager who enjoyed showing his emotions in public. “When Brian was 16 he would say, ‘I haven’t had my hug today,’’ she said. “As big as he was, on the kitchen counter I’d throw my arms around him.

“It came back to me that he was the teddy bear of hugs at school; everybody loved him.”

It was that affection that caused the Downingtown community to band together and create the Brian Houshower Festival, which has grown from an eight-team tourney to a major fall classic.

“He had gone down to Baltimore to see a Division I Fall game and he had this growing passion for the sport,” said Downingtown West coach Tommy Hannum. “He came home that weekend as enthusiastic as ever, and couldn’t stop talking about lacrosse. Then he had the accident.

“I only knew Brian for a little time, but this kid had the biggest smile all the time. He was just an awesome guy. It’s a great thing for the lacrosse community to keep one’s vision and life going.”
Shortly after the accident, Ferrere found a poignant piece of writing that Brian did in class.
After he died I read something he wrote at school on the topic of ‘What I would do on my last day.’ He wrote, ‘I would be on the beach surfing with my friends and we would play lacrosse, and we would have the best day of my life.’

“And he actually had the best day of his life, the day before he died. He went to an invitational lacrosse tournament (in Maryland) and he said it was the best day of his life. He told me, ‘I had so much fun, and lacrosse is what I want to do.’”

Ferrere continued to say that Brian’s never-ending

. “The fun and the camaraderie and the spirit that goes on is so encompassing. My son may be gone, but he’s on the shoulders of all those who play.”

“The boosters of Downingtown lacrosse weren’t sure that I wanted this (tournament) to go on every year,” she said. “I don’t care what team they play for, or where they come from, when I see a lacrosse player running down the field, I see my son, in total freedom, and uninhibited and enjoying every second of life.”

Ferrere, a retired teacher who now resides in East Marlborough Township, is grateful for the support of the Downingtown students and community and said she will always consider it her home.

“Brian went to Downingtown (schools) before they split into East and West, so everyone knew him,” she said. “The things these kids did after he died – on their own – was incredible to me.

“They had a ceremony in the park and made sure everyone was there. They told stories about Brian, they sang special songs and remembered funny instances they shared with him. And still, today, kids go to the site of his accident at 2:30 on Nov. 10, or to the cemetery.

“I cannot say enough about the support of the Downingtown community. The entire community was so embracing; people I didn’t even know wrote me cards. They dropped off food; some even gave me money. Downingtown is a place like no other, the entire town was behind me.”



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