Lacrosse jamboree for McKemeys draws 1,000+

Mike LaughlinFebruary 3, 2009 

The Queens College lacrosse team scrimmaged for the fans at Fort Mill High School.

MIKE LAUGHLIN/FORT MILL TIMES

Friends and teammates of Connor McKemey said they were amazed by the incredible show of support at the McKemey Lacrosse Jamboree Saturday afternoon at Fort Mill High School, an event put together to raise money and awareness for the 13-year-old burn victim.

McKemey, an avid lacrosse player, is in an Augusta, Ga., hospital recovering from severe burns he suffered in a Dec. 21 outdoor fireplace accident at his Tega Cay home.

"It's really amazing to see all these people," said Steve Blanchard, who played on the Fort Mill Lacrosse Club middle school team with McKemey. "He inspires a lot of people."

Organizers said more than 500 players and at least 1,500 others from around the Charlotte area and as far as New England descended on Fort Mill High School for the 12-hour lacrosse jamboree, an event that included scrimmages, clinics and pick-up games.

"I'm flabbergasted," said organizer Rich Barreto. "This is about twice as many people as we expected."

Barreto said it wasn't one group in particular that put the jamboree together, but a collection of people throughout the area.

"Essentially, in this town, if you need something it shows up," he said "This is a great lacrosse event, but it's really about Connor."

McKemey is currently receiving skin grafts to cover the burns on 85 percent of his body.

His mother, Karin, was also burned coming to his aid, but has since been released.

"It's very neat to see the community come together to support one of their own," said Teri Couchenour, whose son, Daniel, plays lacrosse on the Fort Mill club team with Connor's older brother, Tripp.

The McKemeys were one of the founding families of the Fort Mill Lacrosse Club and were instrumental in its formation three years ago, Couchenour said.

Lacrosse teams from Queens College and Limestone College and players from the Winthrop University club team showed up to scrimmage for the crowd.

"This was a good opportunity. It's fun to come out and do something different - and it's for a good cause," said Alex Wesenberg, a sophomore attacker on the Queens College team.

In addition to the lacrosse action, the event included a silent auction, raffles, sales of Connor McKemey wristbands and a blood drive. The Community Blood Center of the Carolinas ran the blood drive. All of the blood matching Connor's type will go to Augusta to help him in his recovery, according to the center. All other types would be distributed to area hospitals.

"I'm a substitute teacher, so when it comes to anything for kids, I'm there," said Marcella Krug, while donating blood for Connor. "I'm impressed by the show of support for a great kid. I hope all this helps him to get healthy."

Even a professional player made an appearance at the event.

Major League Lacrosse player Jesse Schwartzman, who plays defense for the Denver Outlaws, flew down from his home in Baltimore to sign autographs and teach kids some tricks and techniques to the game.

"It was a no-brainer...I heard about the cause," Schwartzman said.

"This is a great event to give Connor some help in this tragic event and it's great for lacrosse, for the growth of lacrosse in South Carolina."

Organizers said they expect to donate approximately $20,000 to help the McKemey family.

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