10/30/2009 Stephen Peed

Gaining Ground on Pediatric Cancer

First and goal. It is an expression of hope that implies both newness and achievement. Short of being in the end zone with the football in hand, it is the most desirable situation for a football team.

  • john with mickey1
John Troxell is all about first and goal, but we're not talking about red-zone efficiency. For the Diplomats' fourth-year football coach, first and goal is not the end of a drive, but laying the foundation for a drive more important than any carried out on a gridiron. His mission is not to get young men to tote a football across a chalk line, but to use the power of football to grow Lauren's First and Goal Foundation.

If you are teasing the idea that this is another typical football coach performing community service story, think again. Troxell's involvement is deeply personal, and his passion for the project will soften even the most hardened cynic. In 2001, Troxell and John Loose found themselves together on the football coaching staff at Lafayette College. Both coaches had young daughters, and the two families meshed immediately.

The relationship evolved in the wake of a devastating diagnosis for John and Marianne Loose. At the age of nine months, their daughter Lauren was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors, neurofibromatosis and Evan's Syndrome. The Looses were defiant in the face of a grim prognosis.

"Having a child of our own, my wife, Pam, and I knew how fortunate we were," says Troxell. "We knew that we needed to help out in any way that we could."

Where the Troxells could help is with the foundation formed in Lauren's name. Lauren's First and Goal Camp started six years ago with just 56 volunteer coaches and 300 campers. It has since grown into one of the largest one-day football camps in the country, with camps in the Lehigh Valley (Pa.) and South Florida. This year the two sites drew 2,118 campers from 644 high schools in 18 states and 356 coaches from 121 colleges.

With John and Pam Troxell on the board, the foundation has raised more than $800,000 for research and direct aid for pediatric brain tumors as well as support groups, social and recreational programs for patients, families and siblings, and financial assistance to families struggling due to their child's cancer diagnosis.

The foundation will cross the $1 million mark this coming summer with expanded camps that will include two one-day instructional clinics and a pair of seven-on-seven tournaments. The foundation will pump the proceeds into research at Boston's Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Duke University and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine as well as support hospitals and medical centers near the camps.

Since no one with the foundation receives a salary, 92 percent of the money raised goes directly toward research, cancer services and family support, while the remaining 8 percent goes to operational expenses.

  • lauren and randy
Lauren Loose regularly addresses the campers and coaches, imploring them to return each year in honor of her similarly afflicted friends who have passed away. The fact that Loose is able to address the crowd at all speaks volumes about the spirit of hope that permeates the project. At 12 years old, she has defied her doctor's expectations just being alive.

"So much of Lauren's ability to endure and thrive is a direct result of having such a loving and supportive family," Troxell says.

Her indomitable spirit has created an updraft of media attention for the foundation, which has been featured on television stations throughout the regions the camps operate, including Philadelphia. The foundation is quickly growing beyond the confines of the 57,600 square feet that comprise a gridiron. F&M's women's lacrosse coach, Lauren Paul '03, is developing a lacrosse clinic to benefit the foundation.

In addition to the proceeds raised by the camp fee, the grassroots effort has benefitted from individual donors. It is Troxell's hope that corporate partnerships are not too far down the road. This would help grow Lauren's First and Goal into the pre-eminent pediatric brain cancer foundation.

"In our first five years we grew as quickly as any other grassroots charity," Troxell points out. "If we have learned anything from Lauren, it is that you can always achieve more."

More for Troxell and the foundation includes aid to families in similar situations to the Loose family with nowhere to turn. "Lauren shows how far a little hope can carry you," Troxell says. In this case,

Lauren embodies all of the hope of first and goal.

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