Buffalo Bandits Face-Off at SJS with Special Message

1Members of the Buffalo Bandits Lacrosse Team brought a special message to the students of St. John the Baptist School in Kenmore during a presentation to over 400 cheering fans.  The Buffalo Bandits are a professional Box lacrosse team in the Eastern Division of the National Lacrosse League, who plays in the U.S. and Canada.  Veteran forward Mark Steenheis began the assembly by delivering an informative and empowering message to students on how to combat bullying.  Steenheis reminded students that although bullying could involve physical, verbal, and non-verbal interactions, it is never acceptable.  Walking away, telling a trusted adult, and telling them to stop were among the strategies cited by the students in the audience when bullying arises.  When Steenheis, a father of four himself, asked students who could make a difference to stop bullying from occurring, they readily stated, “It starts with us!”  Steeinhaus and his teammates, Nick Weiss and Mitch Jones, called upon a special guest to reinforce their message among students, Bandit’s mascot Rax the Raccoon.
The players, including second-round draft pick Anthony Malcom, put on an interactive lacrosse demonstration involving the youngest of students in Pre-K through grade 8.  Steenheis explained the importance of wearing proper gear and equipment to protect the body during any sport, including helmets that prevent injury to the face and brain.  Although Weiss and Jones chose members from the audience to participate in get-your-gear-on as quick as possible challenge, Steenheis reminded the crowd to never rush through properly protecting yourself gearing up.  A mini-game between Team Mitch (Jones) and Team Nick (Weiss) during which students learned how to hold a lacrosse stick and launch shots against the goal was broken in a sudden-death tie-breaker between the school’s gym teacher Robert Vorburger and Spanish teacher Nicolette Gaeta.  Gaeta successfully earned a point against mascot turned goalie, Rax, earning Team Mitch the win!
Steenheis and his team members then offered a special challenge to Principal Cynthia Jacobs.  If she could successfully make a shot in one attempt…complimentary tickets would be awarded to every student at the school.  Amidst the deafening sound of cheering students, Jacobs propelled the ball past the goalie in a heroic attempt to make the shot—and the student body went wild!
Vice-Principal Linda Garrity says the visit by the Bandits coincided with Catholic Schools Week, a week-long celebration across the U.S. where schools celebrate their unique ability to openly express their knowledge, faith, and service to others.  “We were thrilled to welcome the Bandits to our campus,” comments Garrity.  “Over the past five or six years, we have had an increasing number of students play lacrosse and there’s definitely a rise in the curiosity about the sport—and so being able to offer live-demos by our hometown team’s professional is really exciting.  You can’t get much more of an expert presentation than this!”  Currently, more than 67 chapters of U.S. Lacrosse in 45 states provide opportunities for youth to both team and recreational play; local high schools are increasingly offering lacrosse as a team sport, as well, with the season generally occurring in the spring.
Beyond the lacrosse clinic, Garrity says that hearing the anti-bulling message is essential.  “We begin each school year with intense instruction on anti-bullying—including how to combat it, as well as what to do should you experience it—and continue the message throughout the school year,” says Garrity.  “However, it’s always a positive to bring in another voice to deliver this message to students.  We partner with our parents in promoting a safe, comfortable environment for our students to learn and grow, and having the Bandit’s reinforce with such an enthusiastic and empowering delivery helps us drive it home!  We are most grateful to these men and the Bandits organization for taking the time to care for the youth of our community!”