U.S. Army Spc. Calvin Todd's trip to the second annual Shootout for Soldiers event was the longest, most difficult journey of the thousands of people who came to McDonogh on Thursday for the 24-hour lacrosse event.
After losing a leg while serving in Afghanistan last October, Todd came to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda to rehabilitate and heard about the event through a friend while coaching lacrosse. Todd contacted Tyler Steinhardt, the event's creator, to see if he could help out, and their friendship took off from there.
Steinhardt visited Todd at Walter Reed a few times to chat and reach out to veterans in hopes of creating a lasting connection between the Baltimore community and local veterans — the ultimate goal that Steinhardt wanted to accomplish in this year's fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project.
"The idea is to build a stronger bond between those who served and the community, and those bonds will truthfully create so much more fundraising opportunities way down the road than just for a one-day event," Steinhardt said. "The fundraising comes hand-in-hand with increasing that connection, that bond, between our veterans and our community."
This year, the Boys' Latin alum added games for veterans and women, brought an Army recruiter, and created a few more fun events in hopes of accomplishing that.
So far, the progress looks good.
Despite the stormy conditions Thursday, Steinhardt is expecting 2,000 participants over the 24 hours — double the figure from last year — and said over 100 veterans expressed interest in coming to the event — 28 of which, including Todd, participated in the game for veterans.
Steinhardt also collected stacks of jerseys, helmets, and other lacrosse gear to raffle in hopes of surpassing last year's total for money raised, and he set up a hot dog-eating contest that took place during the second-most populous time from last year — 4 a.m. Friday morning.
"When else do you get to play lacrosse at 4 a.m.?" Steinhardt said. "That was the idea — it's pitch black out, the lights are on, and the stands were packed last year. So OK, let's do a hot dog-eating contest in conjunction."
While trying to build that sense of community, Steinhardt brought Major League Lacrosse player Paul Rabil (Johns Hopkins) to host MLL Hour on Thursday evening with fellow player Brendan Mundorf. Rabil attended last year's event after reaching out to Steinhardt, and Rabil's dedication to the Wounded Warrior Project is exactly what Steinhardt hopes the community can do.
"Guys like Paul Rabil will do anything for this cause and event, and I'm so appreciative," Steinhardt said. "As cheesy as it sounds, they support our troops, and it shows the community that these guys — two days before they have a game in their league — [came] out to a charity event."
Last year, the event had 1,000 participants and raised over $120,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, and Steinhardt is expecting to raise a similar amount this year.
He even organized a #TweetforTroops fundraiser on Twitter, where an anonymous sponsor pledged to donate $1 for every new follower of the Shootout for Soldiers account on May 30. That donation alone raised over $5,200, which will be added to the grand total that will be announced today at 9 a.m. when the event concludes.
"I think this event is amazing," Todd said. "It's unreal to see how much the lacrosse community has circled around us and put out the effort. With Tyler and all of his crew, it's a great event, and it's just fun. Everybody's out here having a good time playing lacrosse."
Though Steinhardt does have over 100 volunteers helping to coordinate game times, sell concessions, and organize the raffles, he has been up all night for the past three days to make sure everything was prepared.
"When you work so hard for something, when you care about something so much, you don't get tired for it," Steinhardt said. "I'm so excited for this. I'm excited for the idea that there's so many hours left, and it's great that I have so many people supporting me."
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