Team wants to share lacrosse equipment with Rwandans

By Eileen Oldfield, Staff Writer
   Suzanne Biancamano remembers bringing tennis balls and racquets to the Rwandan high school her husband’s company helped fund and build when visiting the site in July 2008. The items were used, and, as she described, anything that would fit on a plane.
   ”When we gave it to them, anything we gave them was like gold,” Ms. Biancamano said.
   The reactions of the students—many of whom became orphaned during the 1994 genocide — convinced Ms. Biancamano to do more. Now, she’s getting the Hillsborough High School Boys lacrosse team gathering used lacrosse equipment and schools supplies for Rwandan schools.
   The first part of the lacrosse team’s equipment donation plan began in December, when the team members sent donation request letters to 25 colleges, Ms. Biancamano, parent and drive organizer said.
   ”At this time of year, colleges get a turnover of equipment,” Ms. Biancamano said. “We were hoping to get the old equipment.”
   During its 2009 season, the HHS team asked teams competing against them for school supply donations rather than charging their opponents a fee for the games, Ms. Biancamano said. The collected supplies were sent to Rwanda during the summer, she said.
   The team hopes to outfit seven lacrosse teams through the donations, though Ms. Biancamano said the team had not received any equipment donations beyond what the Hillsborough students gave yet. In addition to the used equipment, the team will also accept new equipment, she said.
   While researching the fundraiser, Ms. Biancamano contacted Stephen Paletta, founder of the International Education Exchange, a non-profit organization focused on improving primary school education, to assist with the donation drive. The foundation created the donation letters and brochures the team is using to promote the drive, according to Ms. Biancamano.
   ”The whole thing is, when you put things out there, you never know what you are going to get,” Ms. Biancamano said. “I can’t get over how wonderful the boys are. They are just so receptive to helping children.”
   The second stage of the plan — shipping the items to Rwanda — will occur once the team gathers enough used equipment. The United States Lacrosse Foundation, which the team contacted as well, agreed to handle the shipping costs.
   The plan’s third stage would involve sending Hillsborough team members to Rwanda to teach the students there how to play lacrosse. It’s the most ambitious part of the plan, and is expected to take several years — and fundraisers — to accomplish, however, Ms. Biancamano said the team members were on-board with the plan from its inception.
   ”We’re raising a nice generation of kids,” Ms. Biancamano said. “They think bigger than we think.”