A Thanksgiving Story: The Origin of Shootout for Soldiers


The inaugural Shootout for Soldiers in 2012 raised more than $100,000 in Baltimore. The event has since expanded to 12 locations and raised $2.5 million for military charities.

Being thankful is the origin story of Shootout for Soldiers.

It was around this time in 2011 that a segment on “60 Minutes” detailed the challenges our veterans face when returning to civilian life here in the U.S. It prompted me, along with a few friends, to take action. We were thankful for the service of these men and women, and learning about these struggles inspired us to find a way to help.

So we did. We dreamed up how we could utilize the sport we love, lacrosse, as a platform to give back to our veterans. That was the birth of Shootout for Soldiers in Baltimore nearly six years ago.

Familiar faces have been involved in our planning and growth since the start in Baltimore — from Karen Bolewicki and Jay Dyer, who were part of our original organizing team, to Chris McGovern ,who has willed himself to play for 24 hours straight two times now. As the event has grown, we have moved offices, recently jumping to Howard County thanks to the selfless work of Andrew Manos and the Howard County Rec Department.

Since launching this 24-hour lacrosse event in 2012, we’ve expanded to a dozen locations nationwide and plan to expand further in 2018. Each location has been championed and led by a dedicated group of organizers that have made it possible. The feeling when we launched Shootout for Soldiers was that there was no tangible way we could give back to our veterans, as there was with many other causes. Creating this event gave us this tangibility — this direct connection to the cause.

But making all this happen has not been easy, and I’m forever grateful for the hard work of the hundreds of people who have contributed to our efforts.

In Atlanta, we’re guided by Jay Puckett, Brett Stevens, Tim Coons and John Dellasala, who have championed our cause to all corners of the Peach State and far beyond.

In Houston, the fearless efforts of Stacie McKay are unmatched. Stacie is a lifelong volunteer whose charitable nature is evident in every part of her busy schedule. Her attention to detail, whether it’s creating detailed donation boxes or ensuring there are enough snacks, has influenced how we operate our events.

I’m often reminded of Merry Troper, our energetic lead in Ohio, who pushes me on what we can do to advance Shootout for Soldiers. Whether it was orchestrating a mayoral proclamation two years in a row or coordinating an MLL game in the midst of our event, Merry’s tireless efforts and upbeat energy have fueled our efforts across the country.

In Boston, the passion is worn proudly, as Col. Michael Sullivan and Rachael Rennie sport SFS tattoos on their calf and shoulder, respectively.

On Long Island, Harry Jacobs and Michael Nelson captain the ship of support from the LIMLF, the most organized, dedicated and caring board in lacrosse. They’re also the most competitive, as Long Island in only its third year topped Baltimore in total fundraising in 2016, continuing a lacrosse hotbed rivalry where the winner is always our charity partners.

To the north, a 30-person army led by Carrie Vierhile, Deven York and John Isaac from Canandaigua (N.Y.) Academy orchestrated the most impressive event to date, bringing in a 70-foot slip-and-slide, mechanical bull and a pair of bouncy houses so everyone could have a good time. The Canandaigua community is as caring as they come, and boy did they show up this past summer, filling the stands for our opening ceremonies.

The city of Brotherly Love took the cup for the most fundraising of a new city though, as Philadelphia burst onto the scene with an event jam-packed with live music and corn hole at Episcopal Academy.

Going West, Misty Huss helped coordinate our mile-high event in Colorado, featuring none other than the booming JoJo War Drummer who beat his drum through sun up and sundown.

We launched a new event in Utah this past summer on the campus of the newest Division I team in NCAA lacrosse thanks to Greg Larsen and Steve Hughes, who welcomed us into scenic Salt Lake City for a week of fun while we were on the road.

In the end, we capped off the summer in Dana Point, Calif., an event led by an energized crew of volunteers — including Amanda Thibeault, Elyse Morrow, Michelle Hankin, Tony Berk and Phil Lowance — who helped us double the size of the event and set up a fun obstacle course for the kids to enjoy.

There are far too many names I left off here, but I just wanted to share a few to express and share my gratitude for their hard work.

As we look ahead to 2018 and launch our new city applications, I’m looking forward to building new relationships. I’m thankful for those who have helped build Shootout for Soldiers, for our service members who answer the call to protect our country and for the incredible lacrosse community.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Tyler Steinhardt

Tyler Steinhardt is the founder of Shootout for Soldiers, a 24-hour lacrosse event that has raised $2.5 million for charities serving U.S. veterans since its inception in 2012. Interested in hosting a Shootout? Qualified organizers and host cities can apply here.

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