Campbell Foundation to bring lax to Trenton

Local group joins BRIDGE Initiative

By: Bob Nuse
   The Bobby Campbell Lacrosse Foundation was started by people who remember the Princeton High graduate as a man who loved lacrosse.
   He was also a man who got things done. In his memory, those behind the Foundation have been getting things done. Already in place are scholarship programs, youth lacrosse clinics, plus other means of promoting the sport of lacrosse.
   The group’s latest endeavor, however, is its most ambitious. Recently, the Bobby Campbell Lacrosse Foundation was accepted by US Lacrosse into the BRIDGE Initiative. The program, Building Relationships to Initiate Diversity, Growth and Enrichment, is working to bring the sport of lacrosse into the inner city.
   But it is about a lot more than just getting kids started in the sport. It’s also about helping kids better themselves academically as well. The Bobby Campbell Lacrosse Foundation has partnered with the Trenton Boys & Girls Club, as well as the Village Charter School to bring the BRIDGE program to Trenton.
   "We have the US Lacrosse BRIDGE mandate, a national program," said John Morris, a former teammate of Campbell’s who helped start the foundation. "And we’re working with the Boys & Girls Club, and we’re also in partnership with the Village Charter School. We will be doing clinics in the winter at different gyms. Our goal is to have two teams for each program, third through seventh grade boys and third through seventh grade girls. We want to have two teams apiece, so that’s 65-100 kids.
   "They’ll have practices, games, equipment and coaching. That’s how we’ll start the program. The teams will play other area teams. They’ll go to Princeton University games. There will be a scholarship program to summer camps. There will also be a tutoring and mentor program. It’s not just sticks, but also pens and books. We’re also inviting parents to get involved so that they can also learn the sport. We’re following the example of the Brooklyn Admirals program. They also gave the parents a stick and taught them how to play the sport. There will also be a GPA requirement, which is something they do with the Brooklyn program."
   It’s an ambitious project. It’s a project that not only requires volunteers, but money to get it off the ground. Morris, as well as foundation partners Chris Cahill and Bill Cirullo, feels like everything is in place to make the venture in Trenton as successful as many of those around the country.
   "The belief and passion that lacrosse can change peoples lives is not just our belief," Morris told a group gathered at the Nassau Club last week to kick off the program. "There has been a 100 percent growth in the sport since 2001. We want to take the passion for the sport that we have in this community and apply it to a place that can benefit the most from it.
   "We’ll have scholarships to local prep schools. We want to use the network of lacrosse that exists in this area to make this work. We’re also using the example of the Boston Metro program to help make this work. They have 500 kids in the program there. We’re confident we have the expertise to do this."
   The foundation’s goal is to raise $100,000 toward the program. Money has been provided by a grant from US Lacrosse, and many donors have already stepped forward. In addition, the group has the support of the local lacrosse community, including two pretty heavy hitters in Princeton University coaches Chris Sailer and Bill Tierney.
   Both the men’s and women’s programs at Princeton have already been aiding the foundation through youth lacrosse clinics. And last week, the two programs were presented with the first Bobby Campbell Community Service Award.
   "I feel like there is a lot more that we can do," said Sailer, who was on hand along with a number of her PU players. "We’re excited about this venture. Our team is always willing to give the time and everyone is grateful to have a program like this one started. We’re proud to be a part of it."
   The same is true of the PU men’s players, who have been reaching out to help the community.
   "This whole thing has motivated us," Tierney said. "We’ve been fortunate to have the support of the University. In the past we have had our Infiniti Tournament in the fall, which raised money for pediatric AIDS research. We have not had that since 2000 and now we’re ready to put our energy into something else.
   "This whole thing is not a coincidence in lacrosse. People are always talking about giving back. Bryce Chase, who has been an assistant with us for as long as we’ve been here, he’s an attorney in Trenton and he has given a lot of his life to Princeton lacrosse. Josh Miller, who graduated in 1995 and unfortunately passed away this summer, helped get the Lacrosse for Life program started in San Francisco."
   The program that will be started in Trenton is one of 16 across the country. It is about more than just lacrosse. There are tutoring programs as well as mentoring. For those involved, it’s about helping those who need help.
   "Trenton, in some ways, is a different world," said Dave Anderson, who was on hand for the kickoff representing the Boys & Girls Club. "Second and third graders are being recruited to be gang members. Students at Trenton High, in a graduating class of 1,200, only 300 will graduate. It just creates a cycle of poverty. We see the BRIDGE Program as a great means of helping these kids."
   And while those involved know getting the program started won’t be easy, they, like the other 15 across the country, don’t intend to fail.
   "Bobby was about promoting the game and we wanted to go beyond just the scholarship program," Cahill said. "We branched out to the Boys & Girls Club and we got corporate grants for summer camps. We’ve been running youth clinics every year with the Princeton men and women. We wanted to make sure everything was in order before we got this started.
   "We don’t want to get it started and not have it work. A lot of kids in Trenton say that people start things and then give up when they don’t work right away. We don’t want that to happen. The people involved with this are people who get things done. It was started by the Campbell family, who wanted to have a scholarship fund. I helped coordinate that with Bill Cirullo and John Morris. We put it together in April of 1999, and we had a scholarship that lacrosse season. Those same people will make sure this works."
   Added Cirullo, who coached Campbell in lacrosse and football at Princeton High: "I’m very proud that we have gotten this far. Bobby was a special person. We made a promise to Mrs. Campbell to start this foundation, and once a promise is made, you don’t break it. The beauty is the way this foundation has grown and the way those involved enjoy each others company."
   "I think it will take off because of the people involved. They won’t let up until it happens. It’s about commitment and living up to a promise. We’re ready to go if people will support us. We’re ready to go."
   This group is ready to go. All they’re looking for is a little support.
   "Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make wonderful things happen," Tierney told the group last week. "I didn’t know Bobby Campbell. But we’ll give our support. The workforce is ready. Everyone just needs to get on board. If we can affect one life in a positive way, I’m sure Bobby would be a proud man looking down on us."
   Those interested in helping with the BRIDGE Initiative, either with a monetary donation, with mentoring, coaching or fundraising, can contact the Bobby Campbell Lacrosse Foundation via email at staff@campbelllacrosse.org. For more information, visit the foundation website at www.CampbellLacrosse.org. Donations can also be sent to The Bobby Campbell Lacrosse Foundation, P.O. Box 3129, Princeton, NJ 08543.