I was first introduced to Lax-4-Life at the 2012 US Lacrosse National Convention. I was wandering through the Expo hall looking at the various vendors and organizations that were represented. Then, when I was about to leave the Expo hall I caught sight of a bright yellow logo, which happened to be the Lax-4-Life logo. Next to the logo were the words “Playing For Suicide Prevention Awareness.” I chatted with the girls running the booth and bought a Lax-4-Life shirt, which happens to be one of my favorite tshirts now.
After buying my new shirt I left the Expo hall to attend various officiating presentations, but the mission of Lax-4-Life stuck with me throughout the convention weekend. According to the about page of Lax-4-Life’s website, this is a “national lacrosse campaign to provide and support programs geared toward adolescent and young adult suicide prevention awareness.” With a mission like that I wanted to involve myself in a small way to help spread the word about this organization.
I reached out to Alicia Groveston, a member of the Lax-4-Life Board of Directors, asking if Lax-4-Life would be interested in an interview piece for the Atlanta Youth Lacrosse Blog. Aside from coaching strategy, sideline behavior, and X’s and O’s, I also want this blog to showcase lacrosse organizations that are giving back to the lacrosse community in positive and special ways. I believe that Lax-4-Life’s mission is incredibly worthwhile and important considering how close-knit the lacrosse community is. With that said, I hope you enjoy the following interview with Alicia!
How did Lax-4-Life start?
Lax4Life began as an idea in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. The idea was proposed by Ginny Martino (HC @ West Chester University) at our coaches meeting to tackle an issue that was very personal to her and her team, suicide prevention awareness. Only a short time before, the little sister of her goalie committed suicide at the age of 16. She asked if we would be interested in supporting the Allyson Rose Green Foundation and 10 schools said yes. We held a week in March where we all bought tshirts, asked for donations and took pictures in support. That fall (2009) I brought it up to Ginny about asking the Division II membership if they would be interested. She absolutely agreed and myself, Ginny and Kristen Selvage (HC @ Lock Haven University) took this on as a labor of love. That year we had 36 teams participate across D2. We still didn’t feel we were doing all we could, so we decided to create Lax-4-Life, Inc. a non-profit 501-C organization to focus on suicide prevention and awareness for youth and young adults. From there we have had over 100+ schools participate and multiple high schools and youth organizations organize games and support our cause.
What is the Lax-4-Life mission?
Our mission is really two fold – the before and after of suicide. We are working toward erasing the stigma attached to suicide and depression, while educating people on the resources and options available to them in terms of counseling, support groups, and other resources. We feel like there isn’t enough education out there to help our young people, who have so pressures today (high school drama, college choices, parental troubles, the wavering economy, the overexposure on the internet, etc) to help them know they aren’t alone and that the world would never be better without them. For those of us who are left behind after suicide, we aren’t really sure how to react and go on. We also wanted to help people who are dealing with the after effects find an outlet for their pain and be able to move forward.
How did you get involved with Lax-4-Life?
I was coaching in the PSAC when the idea was brought up by Ginny. All three of us, Kristen, Ginny and myself have all had very personal experiences with suicide from the siblings or boyfriends of current player to family members. I have had too many friends over my 31 years who have taken their own lives. It leaves a void and a lot of unanswered questions. The one that really inspired me to do something occurred at the end of the summer of 2008. The husband of a very good friend to our lacrosse program at Gannon committed suicide, five days before his second child was born. Our players really struggled with this and how to help her, while helping themselves. I wanted to help them so I started researching and really gravitated to this when it was brought up to us.
How do you get the word out about Lax-4-Life?
We’ve really tried to do this right and that began with starting small. We want to be able to be involved as much as we can with the events that take place in our areas and support the people who are supporting us. Most of our exposure and growth is attributed to our bringing L4L to our IWLCA (Intercollegiate Womens Lacrosse Coaches Association) over the last 3 years and getting different Divisions of lacrosse involved in holding games and spreading the message. In January of 2012 we purchased space at the US Lacrosse Convention in Philly and really got a great reaction. We have been really lucky that high schools in Pennsylvania, Michigan and New York have hosted over 25 Lax4Life games through just word of mouth. Our hope is that we can have a presence in every state that sponsors youth, middle or high school lacrosse.
Do you partner with any other organizations that try and help prevent adolescent and young adult suicide?
We have been a huge supporter of the Allyson Rose Green Foundation at www.allysonsfund.org/HOME.html, We have also donated to multiple local and national organizations.
What has been the general reaction to people seeing Lax-4-Life for the first time?
Initially people think it’s a cool name or a neat tshirt design, and then they see exactly what we are trying to do and working towards. From there they are intrigued and usually share a story about a person they knew who took their own life. Once they share, you can almost see the relief on their faces when they realize they aren’t alone. For us, lacrosse is just the vehicle for us to be able to share our message and really try to make a difference. We are very lucky to have an opportunity to try to make a difference and people are unbelievably candid and interested in getting involved.
Finally, what words of encouragement do you have to young athletes who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide?
The world will never be a better place without you; your parents, your friends and your community wont be okay if you aren’t in the world. There are so many people out there who share your fears, your doubts and your struggles. It sounds cliché, but you aren’t alone and suicide is not a dirty word. We need to be able to share without fear of repercussion or stigma; find that one person who you are comfortable with and be you! Have confidence in you and what you bring to the table. As the saying goes, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
If you are interested learning more about Lax-4-Life, please visit their website at www.lax-4-life.org. If you are interested in contacting Lax-4-Life I highly recommend visiting their Contact Page.
As the saying goes, if one life is spared because of Lax-4-Life’s outreach then their effort is absolutely worth it. I believe that Lax-4-Life will help far more than just one person.