Road Trip Dad – Action Items
Dan Witmer |March 18, 2019
Time to get busy.

I’ve got a full plate of things that need to be taken care of. Like, right now. And you readers are running out of time, too.

For instance, our 13th annual St. Baldrick’s Day in Oswego is quickly approaching. This year’s event to raise money for life-saving childhood cancer research is on Sunday, March 31, 1-4 PM at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center. That’s less than two weeks away.

You know the story – an Oswego State alum introduced the 2007 Laker team and me to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and its mission, and the team bought in and in about two months’ time, we raised about $11,000. That was Year One. The event has grown in scope and success in the 13 years since, peaking at $97,000 in 2015. Last year we came up just shy of $90,000, and in 12 years, we’ve raised more than $660,000.

I know, I know – that’s about two years’ worth of Kitty Hoynes fundraisers, but we’re not competing with one of the top St. Baldrick’s events in the world – we’re competing with childhood cancers, and I’d like to think that all St. Baldrick’s events, large and small, are winners.

When I stopped coaching at the college in the summer of 2010, I hoped that the Oswego State men’s lacrosse team would stay committed to St. Baldrick’s, but over the next four years, participation and fundraising dwindled. Then, when current Laker coach Drew Bezek came aboard for the 2015 season, he renewed the teams’ involvement. This year’s Laker fundraising team boasts 42 team members and coaches, and they’ve already passed their goal of $5,000 and the second-best mark of $5,044 raised in 2016.

I sent out an email earlier last week asking about 75 Laker Lacrosse alums to consider donations in the names of Coach Bezek, assistant coach Dan Rogers ’09, sophomore Mike Fleming (the first second-generation Laker in program history), me, or any Laker of their choosing.

A few hours later, my phone rang. On the other end was Kevin Murphy ’93, and he told me that he had just recently been diagnosed with Stage 4A throat cancer. An Albany City firefighter, he was in good shape with health insurance, local support, and offers of help – but he wanted to form a fundraising team for our Oswego St. Baldrick’s event.

He said that the doctors at New York City’s Sloan-Kettering Hospital told him that their plan for his treatment, including proton radiation therapy, was first developed for childhood cancers. They’d had success with it at that level, and they are confident that it will work wonders with him.

So he wants to help St. Baldrick’s do more for childhood cancer research. Since registering on our website and forming the Oswego Men’s Lacrosse Alumni Team on Friday, the team has raised more than $2,200.

Murph wants Laker alums to join him in shaving and or volunteering, and yesterday he got his first teammate when Rich Wagner ’89 registered. By sheer coincidence, I haven’t joined or formed a team yet, but tomorrow I’m going to join his team, and I’m hoping other former Lakers do the same. Sure, donations are what really matter the most, but I’m confident that if we sign up more team members, we’ll also reach out to more potential donors.

In Murph’s words, “I was recently diagnosed with a stage 4-A throat cancer in February. I am asking you to join my Oswego Men’s Lacrosse Alumni Team in the fight against childhood cancer. Become a St. Baldrick’s shavee and we can reignite the glory days in this battle.

In my fight against cancer, they are using something called Proton Radiation.   The best I can describe it is Star Wars radiation. There are currently only 26 of these facilities in the U.S. and its use has primarily been with childhood cancers.   Without its proven effectiveness in childhood cancers, I wouldn’t be receiving Proton Radiation.

My start date is just around the corner. My prognosis with this Proton Radiation is outstanding and after 7 weeks of daily radiation, and 3 weeks of chemo, I will be A-OK.   My prognosis is excellent. Don’t worry – there still stages 4-B and 4-C. There is a 90% cure rate with this type of radiation and chemo. With my age, good health, and excellent looks, all we are talking about is limiting short and long term side effects. I would not have such an excellent outlook if it had not been for all the work done with Proton Radiation in childhood cancer that has come before me.

So, I ask my fellow Oswego State alumni, my friends, and my family to help me fight childhood cancer and help them find the treatments and cures against this disease.    Without what’s been done with childhood cancer, I wouldn’t be receiving Proton Radiation.   From the bottom looking up, I’m a very lucky man, so let’s do what we can for those in a much tougher place.

On a lighter note, I do have one year of NCAA eligibility left and when this is all over, I will  need your assistance in returning to Oswego State to play out my final year as the oldest player in Laker Lacrosse history.

Thanks for your anticipated support!” 

To join Murph’s team, form your own fundraising team, make a donation, or learn more about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, please go to www.stbaldricks.org

So there’s that. One minute I’m sending out a shotgun e-mail to Oswego State lacrosse alums; the next I’m learning one of my former players is fighting his own cancer battle – and yet he wants to help me and 2019 Laker team in their efforts in our efforts to fund research grants and trials.

And let me tell you something about Murph. He transferred to Oswego State from Suffolk Community College on LI after a career so successful he represented Suffolk CC in the 1990 JUCO North/South Game at Johns Hopkins. He was a fierce competitor who, after giving us everything he had on the field, stuck around an extra year and joined my coaching staff in 1993. He’s argued ever since then that he played an integral part in helping us evolve into conference champs in ’94, despite the fact that he had graduated and moved on.

Over the past 25 years he’s come back for alumni games from time to time, but I reconnected with him recently when he started building a youth lacrosse program in his community outside of Albany. I introduced him to George Leveille, who encouraged him and gave him some helpful contacts to get him started. He must have been successful once again because, as he hung up the phone this week, he said, “Well, I gotta run – gotta get my little one to lacrosse practice.”

Never, ever, bet against Kevin Murphy.

OK, now for another action item…

The newly-formed Upstate Lacrosse Foundation, which was born with the dissolving of the Upstate Chapter of US Lacrosse, is hosting a “24 Hour Lax Around the Clock” fundraiser in June. From roughly 5 PM Friday, June 14 until about 5 PM on Saturday, June 15, boys’ and girls’ teams and men’s and women’s teams of all ages can play on two fields at Everest Park in Auburn. Registration fees will go towards the ULF. The event will coincide with the ULA’s Opening Weekend.

Now, I’m sure that the Baldwinsville JV team will register, as will teams from West Genesee, Auburn, and Skaneateles. There will be boys’ and girls’ U-10 and U-12 teams from Marcellus, Fulton, and Homer.

But I want to think outside the box, and I want you to do the same.

I want to see something like the good-old days, when alumni teams from Cornell, Cortland, and Syracuse played at Griffin Field at Onondaga Lake Park. Those games were awesome! What if we try to resurrect those kinds of alumni games, college against college?

Or how about the eight or ten teams that play at Henninger High School every summer in the City League? There’s a lot of talent and a lot of players there every week.

Or the Lake Placid teams? High Peaks, Graph-Tex, Ultra Legends, Roadhawks, Achy Bones, and – dare I suggest it? – even the Sailin’Shoe has players all over CNY.

Are there enough Elder Statesmen around Upstate NY to field a team? What about an SU alumni team, or a Cornell squad? LeMoyne? OCC? Oswego vs. Cortland? RIT vs. Nazareth?

You pick the age parameters, but go ahead and throw down those gloves! Call out your buddies and their team. Play at 2 AM. You’ll have a ball and raise funds for the ULF.

Imagine a LeMoyne 40-and-over squad against an Ithaca 40-and-over team (maybe the head coaches would even suit up!)… Bragging rights for an entire year! Or Roadhawk alums vs. Finger Lakes alums, or Superior Seal & Paving vs. GTX.

Start the chirping now, and look for registration information as we get the spring started.

These aren’t random ponderings; they’re action items.

Drive carefully, everyone!

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of two books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit  is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.