The lacrosse community: it may be one of the strongest sporting families around – a tight-knit group of people passionate and loyal to a tee to their sport, and to those involved with it. Like other niche sports – rugby and running come to mind as good comparatives and there’s surely many others – the community is well connected and ready to help in the spirit of camaraderie.
Perhaps the clearest example of this is during times of adversity and challenge. This month, the community is bonding around Shawn Williams, a star player in the National Lacrosse League and a Canadian box lacrosse icon from the Oshawa area, whose just-turned-eight-year-old son Tucker being diagnosed with lymphoma.
Williams, the 39-year-old captain of the Brooklin Redmen in Major Series Lacrosse and a vital offensive star for the National Lacrosse League's Buffalo Bandits, has been through a lot of physical pain through his illustrious career in one of the world's most physical sports. But the pain he's facing now is something quite different, as he copes with the diagnosis of his son with Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
During one of the stoppages of Saturday night's game against the Toronto Rock in Buffalo, the entire crowd at HSBC Arena sang to Tucker who had just turned eight and received the video greeting via Facetime:
Bandits fans were happy to support Tucker and were treated to a big win as their team defeated the Rock 12-10. Williams netted two goals and added two assists in an emotionally charged performance. Following his four-point night, when Williams returned to Toronto on Sunday, Tucker was talking and eating as if nothing had happened to him. Sick Kids provided a dose of chemotherapy on Monday, and Tucker has progressed over the course of the week.
“Right before Tucker left for Sick Kids, we had a shootout in our living room,” Williams said. “He grabbed my stick and said, ‘I have to put some magic into this stick for you.’ He scored on me. The emotions were crazy for me on Saturday.”
For Tucker, it's the kind of emotional lift that can help. While a full recovery is expected, the young member of the Oshawa Blue Knights lacrosse organization is expected to be in hospital for four to five months yet. One can only imagine what the Williams family has endured during this process. They first learned of Tucker’s predicament after a visit to a walk-in clinic on Jan. 16 for what they thought was swollen tonsils. It turned out to be a large mass which later grew into an egg-sized tumour. Certainly something no child or family should ever have to endure.
“They told us that we should go to the hospital, and referred us to another doctor in Oshawa. From there, we were referred to someone at Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital," Williams explained to Bandits.com, the official web site of the Buffalo Bandits. “As parents, this was a scary experience because the unknown was there. Then we found out that there was a mass. Hearing that word, your brain goes towards graver situations.”
Tucker was focused on other matters, likely playing hockey with his rep team in Oshawa. He was told he could not lace up the skates.
"He was very upset with me that he couldn’t play,” Williams said. “But when he went to go hang out with his friends, they observed that he seemed to look worse. He had more troubles sleeping that night and our doctor sent us back to Sick Kids on Thursday.”
“You knew that he was in a lot of pain,” Williams said. “But he was all smiles. He was just Tucker. I heard that a nurse stated that Tucker was ‘braver than brave.’ He was going to get through this.”
A campaign for Tucker, the son of Shawn and Tamara Williams, launched recently, naturally titled Braver Than Brave. NLL players showed their support for their colleague by wearing stickers on their helmets this past weekend, an initiative that will continue on for the near future. A web site braverthanbrave.com has just launched.
“The support from the lacrosse community has been overwhelming in a great way,” he said. “Our lacrosse community is second to none and the response has been unbelievable. I’m still getting texts from people every day. The lacrosse community is definitely the best community you want to belong to.”
“(Tucker has) responded really well to everything,” Williams said. “The doctors are pleased. Tucker went for a scan today, and the hope becomes there is some form of reduction so the next phase of chemotherapy can occur. His spirits are unbelievable, though.”
“He’s still the Tucker that we know. He’s not feeling sorry for himself. He knows that he’s in for the long haul, and he’s given strength to all of us.”
Pro players, coaches and others from the lacrosse community have been visiting Tucker at Sick Kid’s Hospital in Toronto and the community has taken over the social media world with words and photos of support. Just search #BraverThanBrave yourself. The hashtag was trending on Twitter over the course of the weekend, another sign of the outpouring of generosity from the lacrosse community, which has been nothing short of incredible.
For anyone who wants to make a cash donation an account has been set up at The Royal Bank of Canada:
Transit # 098470
Institution # 003
Account # 506-315-1
If you don’t have funds right now, but would like to send a note of support, there’s another option. Paul Stewart, a lacrosse coach, scout and blogger for Inside Lacrosse’s ILIndoor.com site, and some friends of the Williams family set up an email address to receive well wishes for Tucker. Email email@example.com to deliver your support.