Dozens of orange balloons danced in the wind, brightening Spartan Stadium on a chilly, overcast Saturday, April 16. The men’s and women’s lacrosse teams were hosting the Orange Games to benefit the Four Diamonds Fund for childhood cancer.The men played their contest with Thomas College at 11 a.m., and the women hosted Westfield State University at 7 p.m.
Pioneering the event was Castleton athletic training student Amanda Kuchinski, whose younger brother, Dustin Beaver, was recently diagnosed with Leukemia.
Kuchinski, a junior, said she got the idea from the women’s ice hockey team’s annual “Pink the Rink” event.
“I am really close with the women’s lax team,” said Kuchinski, who was an athletic trainer with the program a season ago.
Kuchinski explained that orange was the color that represented Leukemia, similar to pink representing breast cancer and red to signify AIDS. Kuchinski told her friend, Brian Roche, a player on the men’s team, about the idea, and he suggested a weekend where the men and women were playing home games.
“[Amanda] decided what games and what weekend worked best,” Roche said of Kuchinski’s commitment to the event.
“The men’s team was so accepting,” Kuchinski said. “They gave him a jersey.”
There was an extra number 34 jersey floating around the stadium and field as the 12-year-old Beaver was an honorary member of the men’s team. He carried the special wooden stick the players pay homage to each game and led the 25 players that doubled his height into battle. Beaver, the honorary captain, handled the pregame coin toss as well.
The players donned orange warm ups that they wore for the entirety of the game underneath their home whites. And on the backs of the new team helmets, each player had an orange ribbon sticker.
The Spartans beat Thomas soundly 22-5 on the inspiration from the young number 34.
“It’s great, man, to play for others,” men’s head coach Brian Kingsbury said. “It’s a great way to raise money and awareness.”
Beaver joined the women’s team in a cold, stormy night game as another honorary player.
“Our game was so cold, but he was excited to run out with us,” head women’s coach Tammy Landon said. “But after that he kind of hung out in the press box. I think his highlight was the [men’s game].”
The women followed suit and beat Westfield State 16-11 on further inspiration from the bravest Spartan in the stadium that day.
Donations were collected and each of the programs donated $300 worth of orange t-shirts to be sold with the “Diamonds for Dustin” orange tees. Kuchinski said she had made over $700 after the first game.
Kuchinski said on Monday, April 18, that the official count was at $2,000 with more donations still being accepted.
The money will be donated to the Four Diamonds Fund that helps cover medical expenses insurance won’t.
Beaver was very appreciative, according to Kuchinski, and she also said that his favorite parts of the event was tailgating with both the teams after their wins.
“I think it would be fantastic to make [the orange games] an annual event,” Landon said.