By Zach Helfand, The Baltimore Sun
12:50 PM EDT, June 15, 2012
Tyler Steinhardt doesn't remember the last time he slept. Monday, maybe.
When he's finally able to shut his eyes, after his world-record 24-hour lacrosse game to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project is finally over at 9 a.m., Friday, he'll have more than sheep to count.
One thousand players. An estimated 5,000 spectators. Forty thousand dollars raised? Done. What about 50-, 60-, 100 thousand?
And then this number: One. The first steps taken in public by Sgt. Ryan Major since he lost both legs and several fingers to an IED in Iraq.
Not bad for a recently graduated Boys' Latin student.
"Even in the last few weeks, I was still kind of questioning myself whether [the event] was going to go on," Steinhardt said. "When these guys stepped on the field … it was blissful."
Steinhardt said he conceived of the Shootout for Soldiers event after watching a video in December on the Wounded Warrior Project, a charity which gives aid to injured soldiers, helps veterans adjust to civilian life and raises support among the community to honor the sacrifice veterans make.
Sacrifice. It's the type of thing that takes people like Sgt. Major from Towson High in 2003 to Ramadi, Iraq in 2006 to "waking up in the hospital with no legs."
"That can put a damper on your spirit," Major said.
Major, who jokes that he's the youngest "Sgt. Major" in the Army, said he had to deal with the mental recovery before he could think about the physical rehabilitation. Taking his first public steps on his prostheses Thursday is part of a long recovery process.
Lt. Col. JC Glick, an active-duty officer who served five tours in Iraq and six in Afghanistan, made an eight-hour drive from Fort Jackson in South Carolina after seeing the event on Facebook. Glick said he was inspired by the event and the support the community planned to show Major and the mother of Nick Ziolkowski, a Boys' Latin graduate who was killed in Iraq in 2004.
"I'm here for nothing more than to tell people thank you," Glick said. "I'm not sure that the nation is always so great at saying 'that's enough' and 'thank you,' but stuff like this shows me that yeah, people do get it.
"Once we're out of war and it's not on the front page anymore, we've got to remind [the public] of our soldiers."
Boys' Latin students conceived the event, and on Thursday, 75 volunteers from the school and many more adult volunteers organized squads by age and skill level to play in one-hour time slots. They will also keep the running score between the two teams, the Stars and the Stripes. Each player donated at least $20 to participate.
Steinhardt originally set what he thought was a lofty fundraising goal of $10,000. The actual total ballooned to $40,000 by the time of the opening faceoff. The organizers now hope for $50,000, but Steinhardt said some spectators are speculating about reaching six figures.
The fundraising effort received help in the form of Paul Rabil, who won two national championships at Johns Hopkins and now plays for the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse and the Edmonton Rush of the National Lacrosse League. Rabil, who autographed memorabilia for a raffle, said he heard about the event a few months ago and got into contact with Steinhardt. On Thursday, he signed almost anything, from shirts to shorts to helmets still on the heads of the 10-year-olds who ran up to him on the sideline during their game.
"It was just an awesome idea by such a young aspiring entrepreneur, and to take his abilities and really bring the best out of the lacrosse community for a good cause is something I wanted to be a part of," Rabil said.
As for that young entrepreneur, Steinhardt hardly had time to breathe Thursday morning. He coordinated with volunteers, helped open the festivities and bounced around from interview to interview as he shook hands with a congressman and hung out with Rabil.
He'll be ready for sleep soon. Just not yet.
"It's been kind of hectic, but to be truthful it's way worth it," Steinhardt said. "I don't feel tired; I'm so excited about this."
Update: This morning at 9 after 24 hours of lacrosse, Steinhardt wrote a check to the Wounded Warrior Project for $105,000, with an estimated $10,000 more still to be counted.
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