ST. CLOUD, Minn. — It was about one month before practices were scheduled to start for the St. Cloud Lacrosse Association. The association typically takes part in an event in March where kids can try lacrosse for free for one day.
On March 19, the day before the event, members of the association went to check on their equipment in a storage unit in St. Cloud and found that it had been broken into and nearly all of their equipment and 100 jerseys had been stolen.
"We knew that the last time that we put stuff in there was in October of last year and all we know is sometime between October and March 19th is when things were stolen," said Amber Hedin, who is St. Cloud Youth Lacrosse Association's president.
The list is pretty long as to what was stolen. SCYLA has shoulder pads, elbow pads and gloves that it allows first-year players to use for free and for its returning players to use for a "nominal fee" during the season. There were also the game jerseys and practice pinnies that were also stolen, along with lacrosse balls, cones, scoring tables, scoreboards and timers. Hedin estimates that the amount of items and resources stolen totaled $8,000.
"Luckily, our (lacrosse) sticks weren't taken," Hedin said. "We were still able to hold our (try lacrosse) event successfully without anyone even noticing. Our try lacrosse free event is just with sticks and soft balls."
The event was held in partnership with the lacrosse associations from Sartell and Sauk Rapids at Husky Stadium on the campus of St. Cloud State University. There were about 40 kids who took part in it.
What to do next
After the event, SCYLA faced the task of how to replace their equipment and jerseys with practices for teams at the 8-and-under, 10-and-under, 12-and-under and 14-and-under co-ed teams set to start in about a month.
"We had a group text of our board and we were just on fire about what are we going to do? How are we going to do this?" Hedin said. "One of our first things was our jerseys. Our jerseys, we had literally fundraised for 3-4 years to purchase all new jerseys in 2019.
"Our association really only had one full season with those jerseys and then they were gone. That one was really hard to swallow because those were in clear bins. Who takes jerseys out of a clear bin and thinks that there's going to be value in it?"
Hedin's son, Crosby, plays lacrosse and also plays hockey. Hedin said that about 40% of the kids in summer lacrosse also play in the St. Cloud Youth Hockey Association.
The story of the stolen items quickly spread and the plight of the SCYLA ended up getting onto the agenda of the SCYHA board of directors.
"We were asking in the community for any donations and if past players had any gear that they weren't using anymore and we put the call out," Hedin said. "And we shared it with our lacrosse families that this had happened and we were working our hardest to recoup everything.
"We all know that hockey is a sport that it's a village all its own. If there's even one hockey family in need, hockey families have a tendency to rally like no other that I've seen. I know that (SCYHA treasurer) Sara Yurczyk had reached out and asked if they could help," Hedin said of Yurczyk, who has two boys who play both lacrosse and hockey. SCYHA second vice president "Jaime O'Hara reached out to me and inquired about what our biggest need was. At that time, we had already received a large equipment donation from a nonprofit on the East Coast, ReLax Collections. So we knew we were going to be able to recoup a bunch of our equipment.
"Our biggest hole was the jerseys. So when I spoke with Jaime O'Hara, I shared that with her. She asked what the value would be to replace that. I told her what we had invested and she said, 'OK, I'm on it.' Not too long after that, I got a call that just brought me to tears. The hockey board and their charitable gambling partners pulled through and they wanted to help. We were so taken aback and so astonished. Our lacrosse board has six people and five of them are hockey parents as well."
SCYHA decided to donate $5,000 to SCYLA to order new jerseys.
"With the good (financial) position that we're in, we wanted to make sure we did our part and give back to that program," said Jared Smith, who is SCYHA's president. "We wanted to make a big impact.
"We wouldn't be able to do this without our (charitable) gambling partners. A lot of the stuff that happens with St. Cloud Youth Hockey wouldn't happen without those six gambling partners."
Paying it forward
About two weeks after the SCYHA donation, SCYLA went to Hockey Zone Minnesota, which sells and repairs lacrosse equipment, and ordered the jerseys. Hedin said that, because of the pandemic, a lot of jersey orders are taking longer than normal to fill. But with the help of Hockey Zone, she said that the jerseys are going to be done in time for SCYLA's first games in June.
And Hedin said that they are doing something special to recognize five of SCYHA's charitable gambling partners. On the white portion of the reversible jerseys, the business names be displayed for Howie's Sports Bar & Grill, MT's on 8th, H R Pesty's Saloon & Eatery, Friends Bar & Restaurant and Shooters Saloon & Eatery.
Hedin said that besides SCYHA and its charitable gambling partners, SCYLA has also received assistance from Marco, St. Joseph Jaycees, Hockey Zone Minnesota, Minnwest Bank, Stearns Bank, The Pete Matanich Group — Premiere Real Estate, Play It Again Sports — St. Cloud, Homegrown Lacrosse in Minneapolis and "numerous monetary and equipment donations from family, friends and community members."
"Something like this shows how many good people live in our community and surrounding areas," Hedin said. "Ultimately, we're coming out of this so much stronger.
"Like I said to Jaime (O'Hara), our goal is to take the gratitude that all the families and business have given to our association and pay it forward when we are able to do that and keep that positive feeling alive and keep it going."