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Shootout For Soldiers Expands Reach With Operation Baggataway

December 15, 2016
The Shootout for Soldiers organization has relaunched Operation Baggataway in an effort to collect lacrosse equipment that can be sent to military members serving in the United States and overseas. The goal of the project is to build "lacrosse libraries" at military bases around the world, so service members can enjoy the sport of lacrosse during their free time.

Originally created in 2011, Operation Baggataway has partnered with Shootout for Soldiers, the nationally recognized, 24-hour lacrosse game that benefits wounded American military members, to expand its reach around the country.

"I first learned about it two years ago and what Operation Baggataway had done was send lacrosse gear to troops stationed overseas in 2011," Shootout for Soldiers founder and director Tyler Steinhardt said. "I thought, 'We have the perfect platform to amplify this.' I reached out to the folks who had founded the idea and started learning from what they had done before deciding we want to relaunch this."

The operation's initial goal was to collect 1,000 lacrosse sticks during the first month of the program, something organizers were confident they would achieve thanks to the initial overwhelming response to their marketing efforts.

"I would say we have been kind of shocked by the response because it's been much more than we thought," Steinhardt said. "We had kind of geared up thinking we had to do a marketing campaign and get a big push around it, but it's been overwhelming in some ways. We are trying to catch up with the amount of fundraisers going on."

Ultimately, the goal of Operation Baggataway is to spread the game of lacrosse to any interested military base in the world. A lifelong lacrosse player, Steinhardt believes being able to engage in playing a team sport with fellow service members, or even using the sport as a cross-cultural platform to build relationships in different parts of the world, can be a great activity for soldiers and their families.

"When it comes to lacrosse, I've played the game since I was 4 years old," Steinhardt said. "Just to have the stick in your hand brings back a little piece of home, and I think that if you are stationed 5,000 miles away in a different climate or different country and you are able to pick up a lacrosse stick, you are able to get a sense of back home."

Individuals donate their old lacrosse equipment to Operation Baggataway, and the group then organizes and donates that equipment to the military at no cost. Shootout for Soldiers has been contacted by numerous military bases overseas and in the United States, and it is looking for more installations interested in receiving lacrosse equipment for the men and women stationed there.

Among its successes, the program counts military bases in Spain and Germany, where solders use their donated equipment to participate in local lacrosse leagues within the communities where they are stationed. The group provides the equipment to the military base for free and leaves it up to them to determine how to utilize the donation.

"We're really taking a decentralized approach in that we are sending gear over to these guys, and if they want to use it around the base or start a league up, that's great," Steinhardt said. "In Germany, they have done leagues where the military bases play in a German lacrosse league, which is pretty cool. And that builds a lot of cross-cultural relationships between our servicemen overseas and the German community."

Having the national recognition of Shootout for Soldiers behind Operation Baggataway has been a key to the early success of the program. Steinhardt said they had been contacted by more than 75 groups from as far away as Washington and California about organizing equipment collection drives.

"What we have done with Shootout for Soldiers is we have built a community among the people who were involved in the event, whether in Baltimore or Long Island or Boston," Steinhardt said. "We were able to use that power of people to make things work."

According to the Operation Baggataway website, the group is seeking lacrosse sticks (they will be restrung before being sent overseas), gloves, helmets, shoulder/elbow pads and cleats sized for any age. Those interested in more information about organizing an equipment collection or in making an equipment donation can visit operationbaggataway.com.  

Issue 228: December 2016