By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 12/10/11
Happy 20th birthday Shane Franzone!
With music blaring, hot dogs and burgers firing on the grill and dozens of lacrosse players playing wallball behind Plymouth Whitemarsh High in front of a live streaming camera, the Chestnut Hill College lacrosse team hosted a benefit to express its support for a teammate that has become an inspiration to many.
It is expected that today’s “Balls to the Wall” event will raise close to $20,000 for Shane Franzone and his family. Equally important, the Chestnut Hill family was happy to give their teammate support as he continues to fight through a rare blood disease, two days before his birthday.
Franzone, a Norristown high grad, got to watch the entire 5-hour event from his bed at Children Hospital of Pennsylvania where he is recovering from yet another procedure since being diagnosed with aplastic anemia 14 months ago.
The disease causes the bone marrow to fail to produce adequate counts of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Since being diagnosed just after last year’s Nick Colleluori Classic while a freshman at Chestnut Hill, Franzone has spent nearly all his time at Children’s Hospital and has endured a bone marrow transplant, the need for a tracheotomy, several serious infections and, last week, an operation to remove one of his lungs.
Despite all this, Franzone has vowed to come back to the team and showed remarkable resilience. To help the team show their support, Chestnut Hill college assistant coach Adam Eddinger created the idea of a event where all members of the community could throw against the wall, receive a little instruction from college players and all could enjoy laughs together in honor of Franzone.
The event, streamed to Franzone’s laptop at CHOP by Access Lacrosse, also featured a silent auction that raised thousands of dollars. Many of the top items were donated by Chestnut Hill College coach Brian Dougherty, a former College Goalie of the Year and Major League Lacrosse, World Cup and American Lacrosse League champion. The event also was sponsored by the HEADstrong Foundation, Maverick Lacrosse and Baggataway Lacrosse Club.
“The best thing is he sees what support he has in the lacrosse community,” said Shane’s father, Dean, noting that his wife Denice was at the hospital with Shane but that several other family members attended. “At this time of the year, it means a lot, especially with his birthday coming. It’s an amazing thing.
“I just spoke to him a little while ago and his spirits have been lifted. He is touched by it all!”
Eddinger said the idea was to celebrate Shane’s spirit with an event in which many could share. The Chestnut Hill men’s players set a goal of raising $7,500 in donations and sponsorships 3 weeks ago when the idea was hatched and they ended up bringing in about $11,000.
“I wanted to give our guys an event that everyone could connect to,” Eddinger said. “The passion really came out and showed in the last couple weeks with our guys soliciting sponsorships to this event.
“I also thought it would be cool to have a clinic and get people on the wall playing, while raising awareness about a community member. The family’s medical bills are probably astronomical, but we’re just trying to put a dent in that and give him some support.”
Perhaps the biggest supporter was Shane’s 11-month-old son, Riley, who was joined by his mother, Christina, Shane’s girlfriend.
“Shane can’t have visitors and he got to see his son (through the live cam) for the first time in a couple months,” said Eddinger.
Eddinger said Franzone has become a symbol of inspiration and motivation to his teammates.
“I really believe it’s a circular effect,” he said. “Shane is obviously hurting and still fighting and not giving up. He is an instant example if a guy comes in and says, ‘Coach, I am not feeling good.’
“I would say, ‘Dude, hey look at Shane!’ At times he has come out to our sideline at a game and he is an instant light. All Shane (needs to do) is touch you on the shoulder and he can inspire you to fight that much harder or go that much faster on the field. He is a good way to keep our team in perspective.”
Chestnut Hill co-captain Dakota Maurer (junior goalie) also believes Franzone has lifted his teammates in many ways.
“I think we want to tell him and everybody in this community it’s something bigger than the game of lacrosse,” he said. “If anybody out there runs into a problem, there’s people that will support them.
“For me, more importantly, he had been able to watch all these people support him. It does not take that much to support someone. What he goes through allows us to go through everything with a different mindset.
“It gives me the chills every time I think about it (Franzone’s procedures). I wrote on the (event) banner, ‘Your resilience allows me to move forward in my life every day.’ If I had eight hours of classes and had a hard practice and don’t want to hit the wall, I think he would kill to be able to just jog.
“He is a warrior, a true warrior. He does what we have yet to do.”
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