2011 Lax-4-Life Campers and Staff
Fond du Lac, Minn. – The second annual Lax-4-Life Camp, a four-day overnight camp for Native American youth ages 13-15, concluded this past week in Fond du Lac, Minn. This year’s camp continued to grow and doubled in size as close to 50 kids from seven tribal communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin were present from July 25-28.
Tribal communities in attendance included Fond du Lac, Prairie Island, Oneida Nation, Little Earth, Lac Courte Orelles, Grand Portage, and Mille Lacs.
The camp was presented by the U.S. Marshals, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lax-4-Life co-founder Clint Letch and the Minnesota Swarm.
“With the curriculum this year, we tried to teach these kids the value of lacrosse as well as the heritage of the sport and what it means to them,” Swarm Director of Lacrosse Operations Kevin Dunnigan said. “But we also wanted to work on different community aspects such as nutrition and fitness. We hope these are skills they can take forward in their lifestyles to become overall better kids.”
This year’s camp was also sponsored by Under Armour and the Fond du Lac Diabetes Foundation.
Letch along with Minnesota Swarm co-owner Andy Arlotta and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa started the camp last year with the goal of providing Native American youth with a healthy lifestyle choice that they could take pride in.
“In the last two years, the program has grown,” Letch said. “This year we brought girls into the program, which I think is a huge asset to have as more and more women are being called on to leadership positions throughout reservations.”
Nine girls attended this year’s camp, and the partners hope that number continues to grow over the years.
“Having girls out here this year was another big step for us,” Swarm Assistant Coach Aime Caines said. “Their skill level was great considering many were just picking up the sport. Hopefully they can show their friends what they’ve learned this week and get more girls interested in lacrosse.”
Swarm defenseman and world champion Joe Cinosky was also on hand as an instructor this past week and was impressed with the overall skill level on display.
“Even after just a couple of days working with these kids, you could tell that the game is in their blood,” Cinosky said. “These kids just have the natural skills and ability to play the game.”
Around 20 campers were returnees, and it was noticeable that those who were introduced to the sport last year had continued to practice.
“You could tell that the kids that were here last year had kept the sticks in their hands.” Caines said. “The new kids picked up the sport really fast as well. The skill level was a lot better this year and it’s just going to get better and better.”
Off the field, the camp also provided classroom sessions on how to avoid drugs, alcohol, violence and gangs.
“We looked at this camp as a great opportunity to get involved in the community and with the kids in way other than just being an active law enforcement agency,” U.S. Marshals Senior Inspector Matt Moran said. “We worked with the kids on making positive choices in life such as choosing sports over gangs and school over a criminal lifestyle.”
Brookston Community Center Manager Bryan Bosto, who hosted the camp at his facility for the second straight year, said the Lax-4-Life camps have had a profound impact in his community.
“Two years ago there was no discussion of lacrosse in this community,” Bosto said. “The only time you would see lacrosse was on TV with an Ivy League college game. That’s probably been the general consensus over the past few years that lacrosse is an East Coast game. But it's not. It’s a traditional Native American sport.
“To see the kids carrying around their sticks in December at the Community Center...practicing with themselves throwing the ball against the wall…to me that’s the biggest impact I’ve seen in any sport. You don’t see the kids walking around with a football trying to start up a game.”
As the camp concluded, kids participated in a full contact scrimmage to showcase the skills they had learned over the week. And for the second straight year, campers left the field smiling and praising the sport of lacrosse.
“Lacrosse is my new favorite sport,” was echoed across the field from campers.
Along with their newly developed lacrosse skills, campers more importantly left Fond du Lac with valuable life lessons that they can now utilize in their communities.
“The bottom line is Lax-4-Life builds leaders in the community through the youth,” Letch said. “And when the kids take leadership roles…we all win.”
Campers scrimmaging on the final day