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HIES students bring wheelchair lacrosse to Georgia
by David Rutz
drutz@neighbornewspapers.com
July 31, 2012 09:58 AM | 2428 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Nathan Self<br>From left, Holy Innocents’ rising juniors Sam Fallon and Owen Penn helped bring wheelchair lacrosse to Georgia for the first time.
Staff / Nathan Self
From left, Holy Innocents’ rising juniors Sam Fallon and Owen Penn helped bring wheelchair lacrosse to Georgia for the first time.
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Holy Innocents’ lacrosse player Sam Fallon visited the Shepherd Center spinal cord rehab hospital in Buckhead two years ago and noticed that a sport he loved wasn’t available to wheelchair-bound athletes.

When the rising junior needed to complete his Eagle Scout project for Troop 370, he realized he could bring lacrosse to a whole new group of people in Georgia.

It all came together last weekend at The Cooler in Alpharetta, as about 30 disabled athletes took part in a two-day, free lacrosse clinic coached by Fallon, his friend and Holy Innocents’ teammate Owen Penn, Wheelchair Lacrosse USA founders Ryan Baker and Bill Lundstrom and volunteers from around the state.

Participants were schooled in the arts of throwing, catching, picking up ground balls and other elementary lacrosse skills before breaking up into teams for games. No equipment or prior experience in the sport was necessary to come out to the event.

“I needed to think about an idea, so I figured I could bring wheelchair lacrosse to the Shepherd Center,” Fallon said. “I found out it only existed in California, and Ryan Baker and Bill Lundstrom had started it in California and I got in contact with them. It never really became a concrete idea until probably a year ago.”

Penn, also a rising junior at Holy Innocents’, became the lead volunteer for the endeavor and worked to bring participants and sponsors, which included Play It Again Sports, Adrenaline Lacrosse and STX, which sells lacrosse equipment. Fallon and Penn took to Facebook, Twitter and other outlets to invite potential players from groups like Wounded Warriors for all branches of the military, the Shepherd Center and Blaze Sports, which promotes sports programs for disabled athletes.

Fallon was put in touch with Blaze through Shepherd President and CEO Gary Ulicny, and Fallon believes Blaze can help take wheelchair lacrosse to another level in the state.

“I hope it starts a program and doesn’t stop with this,” Fallon said. “We’re donating the leftover equipment to Blaze. They have the resources to start a wheelchair lacrosse program, and I’m hoping they can turn it into a lot more.”

Lacrosse has grown tremendously in Georgia since 2000. That year, 10 high schools had programs, and this year there were 69 competing in GHSA lacrosse.

Both Fallon and Penn are rising juniors and midfielders for the Golden Bears’ lacrosse team, which narrowly missed out on a Class AAAA-A playoff berth this year. They play football as well for Holy Innocents’. Fallon is a tight end and linebacker, and Penn lines up at running back and linebacker. In that sport Holy Innocents’ finished second in Region 5-A last season, winning its subregion along the way, and made its fifth consecutive state playoff appearance.

They have had plenty of success on the field, but neither athlete had much exposure to wheelchair-bound athletes before. They said they were enriched by the process of putting the event together and the people they met along the way.

“I hadn’t really experienced it before,” Penn said. “It’s been pretty fun. It’s cool to see how these people have learned to live without being able to walk.”

Added Fallon: “Seeing them makes you feel fortunate for everything you have, and it also makes you think if they can overcome this, I can overcome anything else.”

Information: www.wlaxatl.com.
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