James Hazelip does not live in Westport. But the US Army combat veteran — who deployed twice to Iraq — considers this his adopted home town.
He’s seen the kindness, care and generosity of Westporters personally, on visits with 2 non-profits: Sticks for Soldiers and Catch a Lift.
“Sticks” uses lacrosse to raise funds to support wounded vets and their families. Catch a Lift provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support to post-9/11 combat-wounded military personnel.
In the past year, Hazelip has been to Westport twice. Both times, he says, “I met amazing people. They really care about and take action for the welfare of our service members and veterans.”
This Saturday (April 21), Hazelip returns the love. He’s the keynote speaker at Staples High School’s 7th annual Sticks for Soldiers event. After the girls’ 4 p.m. game, and before the boys’ 6 p.m. contest, Hazelip will deliver inspiring remarks to the football stadium crowd.
He’s got quite a story. PTSD nearly cost Hazelip his life. He struggled with substance abuse, gained 100 pounds, and spent more than a month in a coma. Speaking to Westporters is part of his journey to rebuild his life.
That’s not all he’ll do. The Army vet will also address the Wrecker boys team in the locker room before and after their game.
A Navy lieutenant who served on 4 destroyers during her 15-year military career will speak to the Staples girls team too.
Staples lacrosse coaches, and their PAL counterparts, have planned an important afternoon. The ceremony between the boys and girls games includes presentation of the colors, and remarks by Sticks for Soldiers president Jeff Casucci.
During halftime of both games, PAL youth teams will play scrimmages.
A suggested minimum donation of $5 raises funds for Sticks for Soldiers. Proceeds from food and drink sales will also benefit the organization.
Whether you’re an avid lax fan or have never seen a game, te sure to “stick” Saturday on your calendar. You’ll welcome James Hazelip back to Westport — and help many other soldiers too.
(To donate to Sticks for Soldiers, click here. For more information on Saturday’s event, email firstname.lastname@example.org)