Gorgeous views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline greeted attendees to the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York City for the inaugural USA Lacrosse Legacy Gala on June 9. It set an appropriate stage for a memorable night that raised over $625,000 to help fuel USA Lacrosse initiatives.
“The room was a manifestation of our vision for the evening — vibrant, exhilarating, and totally different than any other lacrosse fundraiser ever held,” said event co-chair and USA Lacrosse Foundation board member Brian Carcaterra. “We focused on inclusion and the room being representative of where we want to see the game in the future.”
“Our vision of the Legacy Gala was to incorporate the lacrosse community in its entirety under one roof to celebrate the sport we love and to raise awareness and funding for our governing body, USA Lacrosse, who continually provides the means to grow our sport, support our sport, and field our national teams,” said event co-chair and USA Lacrosse Foundation board member Serena Black Martin. “The gala was everything we had hoped for – energized, fun, and inclusive. The night was like none other the lacrosse community has ever seen, and this is just the beginning.”
Co-emcees, former ESPN anchor Lisa Kerney and former Virginia lacrosse player and NFL star Patrick Kerney, a DJ spinning music, a mentalist wowing the audience with his on-stage performance and audio/visual enhancements all combined for a special night.
“People had a lot of fun in an incredible environment,” said Marc Riccio, president and CEO of USA Lacrosse. “It was an impressive room of lacrosse and business leaders and we raised the bar of a USA Lacrosse event and experience. The level of professionalism was best-in-class and this was an important event as we continue to grow our addressable audience.”
The gala was a veritable who’s who in the lacrosse community, from Native American faithkeeper Oren Lyons to retiring NCAA coaching legends Chris Sailer and Janine Tucker to Hall of Fame players like Dave Pietramala and Rachael Becker DeCecco to gold medal USA coaches like John Danowski and Kelly Amonte Hiller to all-world players like Michael Ehrhardt and Kristen Kjellman Marshall and the entire 2022 U.S. women’s national team. And that’s just the beginning of the lacrosse royalty in attendance.
But the biggest stars of the night were the three legacy honorees — Kyle Harrison, Paul Rabil and Crista Samaras — all All-American players and multiple-time members of the U.S. national team program who delivered powerful and poignant comments.
Harrison said the most common comment he gets on direct messages and emails is from younger Black players that say they feel alone.
“The message I want to share with you all, and I hope they’re listening, is that they are not alone,” Harrison said. “This game is for you. You are welcome here and that giants literally came before us to make sure you have this opportunity — Tina Sloan Green, Jim Brown, Cherie Greer, Fred Opie. We got some here tonight — Brian Silcott, Billy Daye, Taylor Thornton. Literal legends have come before you. Lean into that history, be inspired by it, be motivated by it and even though at times it might feel like it, you are never alone. We are all here for you.”
Harrison’s Johns Hopkins teammate Paul Rabil has blazed a path unlike any other in the sport, helping to bring the sport to a new level, culminating with his founding of the Premier Lacrosse League in 2019 alongside his brother Mike. But his love for the game will keep him pushing forward.
“When we’re able to stop and reflect, we can take a reset to appreciate how beautiful this game is and I’ve been doing a lot of recharging so that I can keep going,” Rabil said. “That’s a question that I get pretty regularly, ‘What makes you keep going?’ and I’ve been thinking a lot about it and my response is, ‘I feel like I’m just getting started.’”
Samaras has openly discussed her battle with depression and that’s been an inspiration to start Brave Enterprises, an organization that has provided programming to more than 15,000 young girls since its inception.
“It is true that I have and continue to wage a war against my own depression,” Samaras said. “It is true that I value fear and so to the bravery necessary to fuel my path through it. It is true that I stand here with a relentless and unwavering commitment to provide for kids something I’ve been chasing for myself — my own potential.”
All three honorees have played a major role in inspiring youth and their legacy was both honored and pushed forward with this event. The funding raised to support USA Lacrosse will help enable the organization to put more sticks in kids’ hands and create an experience that will keep them coming back to the sport year after year.