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Alumni teach lacrosse in Honduras

Caitlin Sisk | Thursday, September 12, 2013

As the children of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos Orphanage in Honduras first approached the pile of lacrosse sticks lying on their soccer field, they giggled and wondered at the foreignness of these strange items that resembled nothing they had seen before.

But after a week of learning to play under the instruction of David Earl, former Notre Dame lacrosse player and current professional lacrosse player for the Minnesota Swarm, the children fell in love with the sport.

Three Notre Dame graduates: John Arlotta, owner of the Minnesota Swarm, Dr. Peter Daly, an orthopedic surgeon for Summit Orthopedics and Earl began this program several years ago when Daly got involved with Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos and visited the Honduras location to find a glaring lack of available medical care.

“[Their situation] got us thinking that they really need a surgical facility that the poor can access … So over the ensuing three to four years we got the money raised and got it built and started getting all of the equipment from the facilities around,” Daly said. “Now it’s been functioning well, and it actually just started functioning on a full-time basis.”

Daly, however, felt the need to not only provide medical care but to also enrich the lives of the orphans in order to provide both a healthy and a happy living situation for them.

“He does a lot of different things … to encourage the kids on an ongoing basis with the foundation, if you will, being his surgery center,” Arlotta said. “Then when he goes down there … he likes to have some additional things that he brings that is beyond just doing surgeries but helps in terms of the growth and education of the kids in this orphanage.”

This principle of enrichment brought about the idea of exposing a new sport to the orphans that the children usually could not access, Daly said.

“The kids down there principally play soccer and really don’t have the resources and the means to be involved in a sport that’s really equipment intensive,” he said.

Daly provides medical care for the Swarm, and this connection inspired the plan, and Arlotta’s connection to Daly through Summit Orthopedics allowed Arlotta to make the concept a possibility.

“It was primarily a funding mechanism from our standpoint. Once the idea came from Dr. Daly, we just jumped on and provided the funding for David and the equipment,” Arlotta said.

When Arlotta and Daly approached Earl, he immediately latched onto this idea that combined his favorite sport and the service-based teachings of Notre Dame.

“Any way to give back to these children and to give back to the center and the orphanage would be just a privilege for me … If I can go out there and bring a sport that I love to play and love to teach and put smiles on kids faces by teaching that, I think that’s just an unbelievable opportunity in itself,” Earl said.

The children received the sport well, even though it differed greatly from the sports they usually played, Daly said.

“They got to use a sport that necessitates a lot of hand-eye coordination, and mostly they can’t use their hands if they’re playing soccer, so that gives them another skill, and the kids loved it,” Daly said. “The children just had a great time throwing and scooping and passing.”

Earl said his trip to Honduras went beyond just lacrosse.

“What was interesting to me was that lacrosse was such a small part of being out there,” Earl said. “I was able to obviously teach lacrosse to the PE classes, but outside of that I was able to just kind of get to know the kids.”

Current Notre Dame lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan implemented similar efforts to combine the sport of lacrosse with the service teachings of Notre Dame in his program many years ago and continues to do so.

“We really want to make it a really kind of a university, community thing that is initiated and built around the lacrosse idea, but it has much, much less to do with lacrosse than it does with our involvement with each other and the community,” Corrigan said.

Earl’s and Arlotta’s work in bringing the sport to new places and to disadvantaged people fits in with the common attitude of a lacrosse player, Corrigan said.

“Everybody feels like that’s kind of their charge as a lacrosse player is to spread the word and share the game,” he said. “That’s a little bit part of the culture of the sport and it’s a good thing.”