Dylan Chaikin had one too many eggs thrown at him.
He had eaten too much mediocre food and lost enough tug of war battles.
So he joined forces with one of his teammates at Quince Orchard, Jacob Hogenkamp, and together they began planning a better, more exciting boys lacrosse team picnic.
“We would do tug of war, but it’d be JV against varsity, so every year the varsity would win. The food was sub-par. We didn’t really do anything,” Chaikin said. “We had egg toss, which turned into ‘peg JV kids with eggs.’ My freshman year, I got hit so many times. So many times.”
Hence, the brainstorming for a new picnic began in February. They made sure the food would be better, but no one told them the event had to be more meaningful, too. That part came naturally to the pair of juniors, who transformed the event into a fundraiser for the Lollipop Kids Foundation, an organization that works to ease the financial burden and provide emotional support for local families of children with disabilities.
“It’s a little more personal to me,” Chaikin said. “My cousin [23-year-old R.J. Beaver] actually had blunt trauma. A grandfather clock fell on his head. He had a stroke and he can’t use the right side of his body. He was a natural-born righty and he still plays sports lefty. He’s phenomenal. He’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen. He can shoot a basketball better than plenty of kids I know. He can hit a baseball with one hand. He plays lacrosse, which is amazing.”
With Beaver in mind, Chaikin and Hogenkamp organized a lacrosse shoot-a-thon with proceeds going to the Lollipop Kids Foundation. Thursday, on a 77-degree afternoon in Gaithersburg, players from Quince Orchard’s varsity and junior varsity teams, along with parents and coaches, participated in the event.
There was a fastest shot competition, an accuracy contest and a bucket shot drill. Defenders and attackers rotated from station to station, but the most popular by far, was fastest shot. Speeds ranged from 60 to 80 miles per hour. Some players, most wearing gym shorts and t-shirts, fired their shot into the ground, others sent the ball sailing over the cage. One broke his stick attempting to shoot as hard as he could. Holding the radar gun behind the net for motivation? Cougars coach Mike Kowalick.
“It’s not all about winning and losing, it’s about teaching these kids life lessons and how fortunate they are to have what they have,” Kowalick said.
The players raised $1,010, all of which will go directly to the Lollipop Kids Foundation. That money will be used to help fund an accessible sailing trip on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for disabled children and their families and friends.
The organization was founded in 2009 by Debbie Sahlin, whose son Ryan Wess suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was 11 months old.
“I think it’s wonderful, it’s the coolest because they don’t have to do that,” Sahlin said. “The bigger thing I like is the boys were like, ‘Ryan is just one of us.’ To see that interaction is what you want to see as a parent.”
Ryan currently attends Quince Orchard and takes adapted physical education classes with Kowalick. He was there on Thursday along with his sister, and was another driving force behind Chaikin and Hogenkamp’s decision to organize the event.
“We have this group of people who can get something good done, so we decided to channel our efforts into helping the Lollipop Kids Foundation and having a fun event, too,” said Hogenkamp, whose mother Anna also was integral in the planning. “It was rewarding because this is meaningful and it certainly beats our stupid tug of war.”
Chaikin and Hogenkamp solicited gift-card donations from Chipotle (the grand prize because, as Chaikin said, “I don’t know anyone on the team who doesn’t like Chipotle”), Famous Dave’s, Five Guys, Jersey Mike’s and RockaFellas to give to the players who won the skills competitions. Following an early dinner, the players and coaches held an awards ceremony in the bleachers.
“It’s not hard work, it’s just something everybody should be doing,” Chaikin said of fundraising. “I think everyone had a lot of fun. People came to have fun and eat food. The food did not disappoint.”