Sometimes, it takes a special event and a special cause to remind all of us that lacrosse is about having fun.

Last week, the Darien Youth Lacrosse League in Connecticut held its annual JR Schoen 3v3 Lax Jam fundraiser at Darien High School. The event is in memory of JR Schoen, a wonderful 9-year-old boy who lost his battle with a brain tumor in 2008.

Family and friends started the JR Schoen Memorial Foundation, Inc. to keep his spirit alive. In addition to an annual Memorial Walk, the Foundation added a lacrosse tournament in 2011. The Foundation’s mission is to provide research funding that will help to find the cause and the cure for aggressive brain tumors found in children.

Originally started as an indoor tournament, the Lax Jam moved outside in 2013 and has continued to grow, drawing 250-300 boys and girls from grades 3 to 8.

“It’s been a huge success,” said event organizer Andrew Barnard, who also serves as president of the Connecticut New York Youth lacrosse Association.

While score is kept in the eight-minute running time games, the ultimate focus is fun, with awards given for best team costumes and best team names. Games are played on 25-yard long, short-sided fields with small goals. Kids are encouraged to be kids.

Some of the tournament’s ground rules include:

  • In the spirit of fun-loving competition, all good-natured ribbing , heckling and trash talk is strongly encouraged.
  • Referees and tournament directors have the final say in all matters, including what constitutes truly ugly shorts.
  • All players without a smile on their face risk suspension for lack of spirit.

Parents join in the fun by helping with team costume designs. Eighth graders serve as the referees. No contact is allowed and offsides is not called.

While supporting a great cause and a strong family that has turned tragedy into triumph, fun is the core of the event.

“The fact is, the kids have so much fun, and the uniforms and team names are so creative, I couldn't imagine a spring without the JR Schoen Lax Jam,” said Barnard.