Sean McKeon had no way of knowing that starting the Fremd boys lacrosse program in 1994 would be a life-changing event.
Everything got rolling at Fremd when Clint Morris saw a piece about lacrosse on an episode of MTV Sports, and he got together with McKeon and Frank Grimaldi to form a team. It also fueled a passion for the sport in McKeon that led him to form an inner-city high school team in Los Angeles and to work in sales for a pair of lacrosse equipment manufacturers.
He even joked that when he was living in New Orleans, he wound up coaching a team after someone overheard a casual conversation he was having about the sport.
"Everything I've done has some correlation to lacrosse," said McKeon, who now lives in Orlando, Fla., with his wife and two children. "It has definitely taken me to many places I never thought I would go."
It is bringing McKeon back to Fremd tonight along with approximately 30 other alums of the program who have signed up to celebrate its 20th anniversary. They'll meet at the school at 6:30 to take part in an alumni game and a fastest shot contest, have a barbecue and catch up on old times.
And the sport that has given McKeon so much will also help a pair of Fremd juniors, Jake LaGasse and Ian Freeman, who are battling cancer and leukemia respectively. LaGasse has played football, baseball and basketball for the Vikings and Freeman was a student in the English class taught by head lacrosse coach Nick Mamula.
Mamula said all the money that is raised at the game or through alumni donations will go to the two families.
"The community was really shaken up by Jake's news and also Ian's," Mamula said. "A lot of people rallied around them to support them and I wanted to make sure the program supported them.
"Ian had his ups and downs and it was a roller coaster. But he was amazing this year and he didn't let it get in his way at all, which was outstanding."
Providing assistance like this was exactly what McKeon had in mind when he proposed the idea for a 20th anniversary reunion to Mamula a few months ago.
"It's going to be fun and hopefully we can raise some money for these two kids and their families in the name of the program," McKeon said. "I'd like to build this into an annual thing and always have a fundraising component to it that benefits the Fremd community somehow."
The Fremd and Palatine community has benefited from the groundbreaking work of McKeon, Morris and Grimaldi 20 years ago. Mamula said the Fremd boys lacrosse program had nearly 75 players at three levels. He also works with the Palatine Pengiuns feeder program and said they have nearly 250 kids from fifth through eighth grade.
"It's definitely been fun to watch the growth," McKeon said.
Marty Maciaszek is a freelance columnist for the Daily Herald who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.