It’s uncommon for a high school athlete’s play on the field to turn into profit for a local, community-based charity, but Evan Gagne accomplished just that last spring during his senior season while playing for the Westhampton Beach boys lacrosse team.
Gagne was named Midfielder Of The Year in Suffolk County’s Division II by the Suffolk County Lacrosse Coaches Association at the close of the season back in June, and along with the brand new award, a $500 donation was made by the SCLCA to a charity of Gagne’s choice. Gagne decided the $500 would go a long way for Blessings In A Backpack, a local nonprofit that was started in 2012 by the Kravitz family of Remsenburg.
Gagne, who played five years of varsity lacrosse at Westhampton Beach before beginning his college career at Fairfield University this fall, said since it was the first year the award was given out, he was completely shocked he had won it. The SCLCA gave out the award to each position—attack, midfielder, defenseman and goalie—in both Division I and Division II.
“I was very happy,” Gagne said of winning the award. “I was kind of honored that I was one of the first ones, especially for division II, since I know they had a lot of good middies.
“The local tie is what made me choose Blessings In A Backpack,” he added.
Aiden Kravitz started Blessings In A Backpack just before his junior year at Westhampton Beach High School and was the first person to bring the program to Long Island two years ago, with the help of his parents, Joanne and David, and his younger brother Alex. Aiden just recently began his freshman year at Brown University so Alex has picked up the slack while he is away.
Blessings In A Backpack is based out of Lousiville, Kentucky, and is dedicated to ending childhood hunger. The program provides elementary school children who qualify for the federal free and reduced price meal program with a backpack every Friday afternoon that is filled with enough food to last the student throughout the weekend.
According to www.blessingsinabackpack.org, the organization is currently feeding 63,000 children in 583 schools in 45 states across the country. It costs between $80-$100 to feed one child each weekend for one 38-week school year through the program.
Alex Kravitz thought it was “amazing” that Gagne chose his charity. “Especially since we need to raise $10,000 this year,” he said. “For whatever reason, we have a lot more kids to provide for so any donation helps. Fundraising and donations are what keep this program going.”
George Searing, who is the head coach of the varsity boys lacrosse team at Northport High School, is the president of the SCLCA and had a direct hand in bringing the new award about. “I think the coaches association wanted to be able put our kids who are truly good role models out there so people could see them and recognize them not only as an exceptional lacrosse player but just good people too,” he said. “And we wanted to give them the opportunity to give back to a community organization.”
Westhampton Beach head coach Drew Peters said that Gagne’s play on the field is what set him apart from some of the other players who were up for the award. Ben Kocis of Huntington wound up placing second behind Gagne in voting for the award, but Peters said many of the coaches around Suffolk County recognized that Gagne was a big part of his team.
“Evan was our workhorse and I think teams realized that after awhile and started to game plan specifically for him,” Peters explained. “In my personal opinion, opposing coaches who played against Evan knew how much of a game changer he was and the award speaks volumes on the behalf of Evan as a lacrosse player.”
Blessings In A Backpack is teaming up with Backpacks For Fellow Students for the inaugural Race For A Reason 5K that will be taking place this Sunday, October 5, at 9 a.m. at Cupsogue Beach in West Hampton Dunes. Backpacks For Fellow Students was created by Westhampton Beach freshman Ariana DeMattei and it provides East End elementary school students with a brand new backpack filled with required school supplies. Since its inception in 2012, it has provided more than 400 backpacks for local students.
Those looking to sign up for the race can do so at raceforareason.itsyourrace.com.