By Brian Deakyne
RUMSON — In sports, teammates are like family.
It’s seen on every level: from little league baseball to professional football, teammates look to one another for support on and off the field.
This week, that has been no different, locally. The TROG, or Two River Old Guys men’s lacrosse league recently raised $13,000 to help Chris Sanderson’s family pay the medical bills that have been punishing the family financially over the past three years.
Sanderson, who represented team Canada several times, most recently in 2010, passed away Thursday morning after a long battle with brain cancer. He was diagnosed with the cancer in 2008, and after being told he would have roughly 9-12 months to live, Sanderson battled for three years before succumbing this week.
With their friend and teammate in mind, the TROG members decided to turn wagers from Saturday’s Kelleher Cup championship game into donations and fundraisers for Sanderson’s family. He leaves behind his wife, Brogann and his two daughters, Stevie 6, and Clementine, 4.
The league, which was created and comprised mostly of local athletes, searched for different ways to raise funds for the Sanderson family, including participating in a state-wide tournament.
“We tried to enter a tournament in Atlantic City which is going to have a cash pay-out for the main prize,” Mark Brown, a league member, said. “Team Reebok entered the tournament and said if they won, they would donate the prize to Chris’ family.”
Still, the league knew they could do the best on their own end to help out Sanderson’s family.
“We said we could do the same thing, raise money ourselves for our Kelleher Cup game and donate the proceeds to Chris’ family,” Brown said.
The Kelleher Cup, named after former league member and Rumson EMT, Bob Kelleher who recently passed away, raised over $13,000, which will be sent over to Sanderson’s family immediately to help pay the rising costs of medical bills they were faced with. The game was held on Saturday at Rumson-Fair Haven High School.
“The whole lacrosse community has stepped up,” league-member and leader of the fundraiser, John Devlin said. “Every penny we raise is going directly to his family and to his daughters.”
Sanderson’s older brother, Ryan, who is also a former player in the league, passed away in 2010 in his sleep at age 35, making the toll even higher for the family. Sanderson played goalie for the University of Virginia and was a four-time goalie for the Canadian national team.
The league got tremendous feedback, according to Devlin. In less than 72 hours since the fundraising began, they were able to raise $11,000 before reaching their $13,000 total on Saturday.
“The guys were outstanding with their pledges,” Devlin said.
This fundraiser isn’t the first time TROG has reached out within the community. Three years ago, league member Chris Barber set up an equipment donation for American soldiers in Iraq that requested lacrosse equipment. The Baghdad Lacrosse Club was created and equipment was sent over to the soldiers.
Additionally, the league has sponsored a number of players attending United Lacrosse Camps, and have raised money on several occasions for the Bob Kelleher Memorial run in Rumson.
“I would say 45 percent of the guys in TROG spent their time coaching local youth in lacrosse,” league member Kevin Gilfillan said. “Many of the league members coach youth lacrosse in Red Bank, Rumson, Fair Haven and Little Silver, along with many joining Rumson-Fair Haven head coach Reid Jackson on the high school team. Many league members are also coaches at Red Bank Regional, making the out-reach to the community that much more important.”
For TROG, playing lacrosse at a high level is important, but certainly, helping teammates — current and former — along with the community, has been a top priority on their list, too.