ROXBURY, NJ – Her daughter is a Gaels goaltender, so Debbie Shulkowski would indeed like to see the Roxbury girls lacrosse squad win today’s game against Morristown. But the contest will be a fundraiser to help kids with Down syndrome, so Shulkowski figures “no matter the outcome … today is a win for Roxbury.”
The annual charity game, sponsored by the Roxbury High School Girls Lacrosse Parent Association, starts at 4 p.m. Shulkowski’s 6-year-old son Jackson, born with Down syndrome, will be part of the effort. He will take part in the opening draw “to show the accomplishments that people with special needs can achieve through not only the financial support but the community support,” Shulkowski said.
The association traditionally selects a charity each year and the team plays a home game to honor and raise money for the chosen organization.
“This year's charity is near and dear to our family as the club has selected The Candle Lighters as the non-profit organization to which they will fundraise,” Shulkowski said. “Today's game is extra special because not only will the activities raise funds, they will also raise awareness in the community of the special people it holds here in Roxbury.”
She said her son “has been around the lacrosse field since his birth” because four of his sisters played for Roxbury programs. “As Jackson was a part of these programs in his early years, many of these lacrosse families have seen the huge steps he has made through such early intervention,” Shulkowski said. “He only began to walk at age 4 and speak at age 5. Now at age 6 nothing holds him back.”
Donations at the game, and proceeds from the sale of T-shirts made byDezine Line of Ledgewood (a TAPinto Roxbury sponsor), will go to The Candle Lighters, an organization that helps fund programs for children with Down syndrome.
“This early intervention and therapy helps to develop the necessary basic skills such as feeding and crawling which eventually leads to independence in life skills,” Shulkowski said, noting her son was a part of the programs when he was younger.
She offered thanks to the Roxbury community for helping and she said her kid feels the same. “His smile and - if you are lucky - a hug, will show you how thankful he truly is to be accepted into this wonderful town and that we are truly more alike than different.”
The number 21 on the T-shirts relates to the 21st chromosome “that gives the Down syndrome community something `extra,’” Shulkowski said.
Children and alumni from the Stepping Stones School will be on the field to help kick off the game. Those interested can email Shulkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.