AVON, June 16 – The sun was shining brightly. A few clouds danced through the blue sky as dozens of former Avon High lacrosse players, coaches and friends of the program returned to Buckingham Field Saturday to remember a former teammate and raise awareness about depression.
Kurt Skelley was an All-State lacrosse player who graduated from Avon High in 2011. He played in college at Springfield College. But in 2014, he took his own life after struggling with depression. It deeply shook the program and all that knew him.
Now, they come back every year and “Play for Kurt.”
They raise money for the Kurtis R. Skelley scholarship. They reconnect with each other and once again play the game they enjoyed together in high school. Most importantly, they learned more about depression, suicide and how to be there for a friend or family member.
Each year, Kurt’s mother, Lisa Ludwig speaks to the players, parents and friends of the program who come together.
“Some of the recent high profile suicides lately (fashion designer Kate Spade and chef, author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain) have made me think to remind people to remember to do small acts of kindness,” she said. “Small gestures as simple as a smile, a hello or look someone in the eye could really make a difference in someone’s life.
Ludwig titled her speech, “Dreaming Small.”
“We spend much of our time dreaming big and setting our sights super high,” she said. “Dreaming small is making sure we don’t miss the beautiful things along the way. Reaching out, staying connected, showing love can be life alerting. You might think it’s silly but for some people, it is a big deal.”
And that is what you saw Saturday afternoon. Smiles, hugs and an arm around your shoulder.
Dozens of players came. Former Avon High head coach Scott Kossbiel strapped on the gear and headed to the field along with Bobby Olsen, 61. Olsen grew up on Long Island and never played at Avon but his son and daughter both played lacrosse for the Falcons and he once served as a volunteer assistant coach with the program.
It was time to catch up on their lives – what they had accomplished and what they planned to do in the coming years. It didn’t matter if you were a player, a parent or a fan.
“I feel blessed,” Ludwig said. “My son was part of this team, this program and learned about comradery, friendship, brotherhood. I feel blessed because of him, his interest (in lacrosse) and desire to be with these guys, we get to come back do this even without him being here with us.”
The boys ran around the green grass as they had as youngsters just a few years ago. They smiled, challenged each other on the field and laughed over a good play, sharp pass or a nice save. They all wore the number 10 – Skelley’s number – as they Played for Kurt.