US Lacrosse already had El Paso in mind when it scheduled this year’s Sankofa Clinic Series. The idea to introduce lacrosse to kids in this predominantly Hispanic city near the Mexico-United States border in western Texas resonated perfectly with the program’s purpose of expanding the sport’s reach to underrepresented communities.

The Aug. 3 mass shooting that left 22 dead at a Walmart in El Paso only amplified that calling. The suspect told police he targeted Mexicans.

Enter the Medicine Game.

In addition to a free two-hour instructional clinic led by some of the most respected minority players and coaches in the country, each of the 75 participants Saturday at El Paso High School received a complimentary lacrosse stick and a customized US Lacrosse Sankofa Clinic Series t-shirt with “El Paso Strong” inscribed on it.

Much like in June, when US Lacrosse took the Sankofa series to a Puerto Rico community that’s still recovering from Hurricane Maria, event organizers saw the El Paso clinic as an opportunity to provide some small measure of healing and belonging.

“It aligns perfectly with our mission,” said Eboni Preston-Laurent, senior manager of diversity and inclusion at US Lacrosse. “We are all about giving kids an opportunity to participate in a fun, friendly and safe environment.”

The Sankofa Clinic Series, established in September 2016 in partnership with the Chazz Woodson-led Sankofa Lacrosse Foundation, is fast becoming one of US Lacrosse’s most popular offerings. Over the last three years, US Lacrosse has hosted 60 clinics in 26 states, plus Puerto Rico. Nearly 5,000 youth athletes age 8-18 have participated in the series, in which US Lacrosse has invested more than $320,000.

The destinations vary. Whether they’re at a summer hip hop festival at Brooklyn Bridge Park or a snowy barnyard in New Mexico, the clinicians find a common purpose.

“It’s bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots,” said Rick Burton, a Baltimore native and U.S. Air Force veteran who also volunteers with Charm City Youth Lacrosse, “and giving them the opportunity to learn the game that I have loved my whole life.”

For more information on the Sankofa Clinic Series, visit uslacrosse.org/diversity.

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