The Charlotte Lacrosse Foundation has helped give Jacob Thorpe and hundreds of local kids like him a chance to play youth lacrosse on an organized team.
The Matthews resident and rising eighth-grader at Crestdale Middle School played last season on the foundation's U-15 traveling team.
The CLF was founded in March 2011 to give kids a chance to play safely in community parks, free from discrimination and at all age and skill levels.
CLF's motto is simple: "Finding a way to let them play."
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Thorpe's school does not have a middle school lacrosse team. The Weddington-based CLF gives Thorpe and his schoolmates a chance to play on regulated teams while emphasizing character, discipline, teamwork and inclusiveness.
The CLF recently named Thorpe the first recipient of its annual Mike VanScoy Memorial Sportsmanship Award. The award honors a young lacrosse player who best promotes the game through sportsmanship, integrity and a willingness to help other players.
VanScoy was an exceptional athlete who played hockey and lacrosse for Lake Forest High School in Illinois and was co-founder of a state-of-the-art sports complex in Michigan.
To be honored for the award, Thorpe was nominated by a former coach.
"Jacob embodies the standards of the award ... on and off the lacrosse field," said CLF President Bob VanScoy.
Thorpe was awarded a plaque commemorating the achievement, a new lacrosse stick and a check for $1,000.
"We are proud to award the first Mike VanScoy Memorial Sportsmanship Award to such a deserving young man who exhibits passion, commitment, and respect for his teammates, coaches and other players," VanScoy said.
In addition to the award, CLF is helping spread the game through a variety of programs and grants.
Scholarships are given to deserving individuals who could not otherwise afford to play youth lacrosse. Free stick and equipment programs expand the sport's reach by working with local lacrosse organizations to provide sticks and balls for practice at home and proper-fitting equipment to ensure safety.
The CLF also offers the New Start Program, which provides equipment to launch lacrosse programs at local schools, field development grants and free lacrosse clinics.
"Jacob is a great example of why we were set up," VanScoy said. "We spoke with him and two of his old coaches, and he was the person we felt best exemplified all of the qualities that we are about.
"He is a very deserving recipient and a great ambassador for our sport."