Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/22/22
From Press Release
You have probably heard of “LAXAPALOOZA”, but unless you’re a part of the “lacrosse world,” you may not appreciate the magnitude of this event. What has been described by youth lacrosse players as the “greatest day ever” has a deeper significance to graduating Penncrest recipients of the “NK Smiles Award” and even more meaning to those who remember Norm Kelly, Jr.
Laxapalooza is an all-day community event with a full schedule of lacrosse games for students in the Rose Tree Optimist Lacrosse program grades K-8, all high school players, and alumni. There are food tents, raffles, merchandise sales, demonstrations, music, equipment swaps, bounce houses for the kids, and…. oh yeah – lots of lacrosse!
All proceeds benefit the NK Smiles Foundation Scholarship which is awarded to graduating Penncrest seniors. Scholarships are given for two separate categories: students pursuing a degree in Education and student-athlete lacrosse players, one from each the girls and the boys’ teams.
Every Optimist team plays a game, topped off by the Penncrest Men’s and Women’s Alumni, Girls and Boys JV and Varsity games. The girls play West Chester Rustin at 11:30 a.m., the boys meet Kennett at 7 p.m.
NK Smiles memorializes Norman Kelly, Jr., an elementary school teacher in Rose Tree Media School District who exemplified patience, kindness, and believed in providing a healthy educational atmosphere, disciplined with love and respect. Norm began his career in 1969 at Glenwood Elementary and then moved to Indian Lane when the school opened in 1992.
He applied his teaching talents to coaching lacrosse, a sport he had a deep passion. Norm was a beloved member of the community, an admired RTMSD teacher and a respected Rose Tree Optimist Lacrosse Coach. In 2006, Norm lost a courageous battle against cancer. To date, the NK Smiles Scholarship Fund has awarded partial scholarships to 68 Penncrest graduates in memory of Norm.
There’s always more to the story. The other remarkable anecdote to Laxapalooza introduces the Pettit Family. In 1987 Jeff Pettit, Sr. co-founded Rose Tree – Media Optimist Lacrosse, one of six local youth lacrosse programs which joined to create the Southeastern PA Youth Lacrosse Association (“SEPLA”).
The organization has since grown to over 40 community lacrosse programs in SE Pennsylvania. Pettit is the organizer of Laxapalooza and in the Rose Tree Media community, “lacrosse” and “Pettit” are synonymous. Pettit was a Division I lacrosse player, college coach, and has received various accolades, including induction into the Pennsylvania Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Through Optimist Lacrosse, Pettit has created an inclusive environment for students from Kindergarten through eighth grade, with the ideal, “we have room for anyone who wants to play.” The Optimist motto is “Honor the Game” and players are taught to appreciate the history of lacrosse and learn basics at an early age before entering a more competitive phase.
Players are encouraged to “play like you want to win” rather than winning for its own sake. You could also call it “for love of the game.” Pettit still runs the organization. He began coaching his own children, and now has grandchildren in the program. Jeff has coached numerous teams, forged close relationships, and he continues to support all his players. The last team that Pettit coached from 3rd grade through 8th grade (their entire Optimist career) is now in the senior class for a 10-1 Penncrest High team.
You may have heard of a few other Pettit Coaches. His wife, Sharon, has coached Optimist and Springton Lake Girls’ teams. His daughter is the Penncrest Girl’s Varsity Coach, his son Evan is the Boys’ Assistant Coach and his son Jeff is the Boy’s JV Coach. Chances are you’ll hear his grandchildren’s names announced on the field as the “next generation” continues…
In case you missed it this year, be sure to check out Laxapalooza next year… and if you are looking for a wonderful way to get your children involved, sign them up to “Be Optimistic… Play Lacrosse!”
Every Optimist team plays a game, topped off by the Penncrest Men’s and Women’s Alumni, Girls and Boys JV and Varsity games. All proceeds go to the NK Smiles Scholarship Fund which grants scholarships to Penncrest students, two of which are selected from the Penncrest Girls and Boys Lacrosse teams.