STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — A youth lacrosse league thought its season was over when vandals tore up the fields at Allen Park in Strongsville, but the community picked up the ball and ran with it.
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Wednesday evening, the Strongsville Lacrosse Association’s fourth and third-grade teams played their final home game of the regular season. More than seasons past, the players have learned valuable lessons.
“To be resilient, to come together and to work a problem together, and you can overcome stuff,” said Eric Wahl, the president of the Strongsville Lacrosse Association.
In early April, after just one practice, one team arrived at Allen Park to find the fields unplayable.
“I felt sad because people ripped up our fields,” recalled 4th-grade lacrosse player Alex Lapp. “I could not catch a ground ball on that.”
Deep tire tracks made the fields too hazardous for the young lacrosse players. At the time, coaches thought the conditions could be season-ending. They also worried the league would have to drain the money from a fundraiser a week earlier to pay for repairs.
“If we didn’t have a season to play, we wouldn’t get to win any games and would just be like a nobody team,” said 4th-grade player Oliver Kelley.
News 5’s initial reporting caught the attention of some Good Samaritans in Strongsville.
“My husband and I heard it on the news in the morning. And within an hour, I called Dave, and we had contact information so we could start making phone calls and see if we could help,” said Rhonda Bryson.
The operations manager at distribution firm Archway Marketing Services and her coworker, operations director David Dobson, reached out to city leaders so they could offer the company’s unused property.
“To hear their season could be completely canceled when I know we have acres of grass here going to waste? It wasn’t too hard of a decision on Archway’s part,” said Dobson.
Since early April, the sprawling lawn in front of the Westwood Drive company has been hosting home games for the Strongsville Lacrosse Association.
“I’m just really happy they let us get on this field to practice and play,” said 4th-grade player Colin Placeway, who complimented the quality of the facility’s grass.
Archway’s contribution was not the only community support the league has seen in the past several months.
“What makes Strongsville strong and separates us from other communities is [I was] immediately getting phone calls saying, ‘How can we help?’” said Strongsville City Council President Jim Carbone.
Parent volunteers helped mow, line and prepare the field to become a lacrosse pitch. Nearby bar and restaurant Slim & Chubby’s hosted a benefit for the league, raising $2,500. The mayor himself wrote a personal check for $1,000.
Wahl said the community support not only saved the season; it also taught the young players important lessons.
“It’s been a lot of adversity, but then sort of overcoming those challenges. And it’s made it a good season. It’s definitely super memorable,” he said.
No arrests have been made for the damaged fields.
The Strongsville Lacrosse Association is still accepting donations for field repairs. If you’d like to help, reach out to Association President Eric Wahl at firstname.lastname@example.org