2015 Sticks for Soldiers Tournament 
2015 WCLOA S4S Officials: Tom O'Neil, William Auerswald, Alan Sentementes, Stephen Brown, Ralph Baldelli, Michael Tamburino, Don Costello, Michael MacKinnel, Rich Bobrow, Dick Maloney, Scott Smith, Marco Torres, Keith Morris, Robert Marusi, Mike Bacon, William Garofalo
For the past 10 years, the Western Connecticut Lacrosse Officials Association has supported the Annual Sticks for Soldiers Thanksgiving Lacrosse Tournament. All participating WCLOA Officials donate their time to the Tournament .

The annual “Sticks for Soldiers” nonprofit charity lacrosse tournament was held on Friday, November 27, 2015 to provide support and to give thanks to severely injured servicemen and women, while simultaneously raising awareness among area high school athletes of the sacrifices being made  by soldiers, not much older than they are. 

Each participating athlete (approximately 900 strong) in teams from more than 60 area high schools demonstrated tangible support and thanks through participation in the 7 V 7 tournament format as well as in their individual fundraising commitments.

This 501(c)(3) nonprofit tournament was created by Southport resident, former college player and lifelong lacrosse enthusiast Michael Voucas, with support from Fairfield Ludlowe High School’s Head Lacrosse Coach Chris Parisi and a team of dedicated volunteers.  The tournament, which began in 2006 with eight teams and a vision, is held the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year, and is sponsored and hosted by the Fairfield Ludlowe High School Lacrosse Program, in an effort to provide spiritual as well as monetary support to retired servicemen/women who have put their lives on the line and have sacrificed for our Country.

Tournament games began at 9 a.m. Saturday, breaking for a mid-day ceremony at Ludlowe’s Taft Stadium which boasted hundreds of student athletes, event leaders, two honorees and their families, a military honor guard, keynote speaker and more. Funds were raised through team entry fees, private donations, player’s donations, raffles, sponsors, emblematic apparel and a silent auction.

“Giving thanks, providing support, raising awareness ... what better way to celebrate Thanksgiving, in the month of Veterans Day, but to honor the men and women who have served for us by supporting these fine men for their personal sacrifices,” said Jim Tommins, President of Sticks for Soldiers and Event Chair. “Less than 1 percent of Americans serve and defend our freedom. Getting the high school players involved doing something they love doing, while helping others and gaining understanding of their service, is a win-win. We are blessed and are fortunate, as are our children, so let’s help where we can.”

Each year, two or three severely wounded soldiers are chosen as honorees and beneficiaries of the proceeds, to help offset the costs of their future needs. United States Army Captain (Ret.) Nicholas Vogt and United States Marine Corps Sergeant (Ret.) Eddie Ryan were chosen as 2015’s Honorees.

Vogt, the eldest of five siblings raised in rural Ohio, graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2010 with a Bachelor Degree in Life Sciences. A pre-med student with a goal to become a trauma surgeon, Vogt deferred his Med School enrollment to serve as an officer. Following graduation and training in Airborne and Ranger School, he left for southern Afghanistan and was assigned as the commander of an infantry platoon.  While leading his platoon on foot patrol on Nov. 12, 2011, the then 1st Lieutenant was severely injured by an IED explosion which resulted in a double above-the-knee amputation and a traumatic brain injury.

Ryan was born and raised in Ellenville, NY and enlisted in the Marine Corps immediately following high school in 2002 at the age of 18, wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps. After boot camp, Ryan was deployed to Iraq and saw combat in Nasariya and Ramadi, before completing a second and a third tour. During the 3rd deployment to Iraq, in April 2005, Ryan was shot in the head by two machine gun rounds. After an exceptional effort on the part of Ryan’s fellow Marines, and weeks of being sustained on Life Support, Ryan continued to fight for his life, and was soon able to track Doctors with his eyes. Upon seeing a fellow Sergeant (an experienced Marine Sniper) and peer who visited him from Hawaii, Ryan did the unimaginable – he smiled.  Ryan’s memory and speech are slowly returning as he heals from bullet wounds that pierced his face and skull. Ryan suffers from TBI, is wheelchair bound and has the limited use of one arm.  Ryan lives with his devoted parents who care for him 24/7/365.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Ryan in appreciation. “I’m overwhelmed and excited and honored to be here.  I’d do it again for my country.”