SUNY Cortland varsity lacrosse team members Justin Wainwright and Anthony Marcuccilli expertly wielded their sticks on Jan. 18.
But the business end of their equipment that frigid morning was shovels not lacrosse baskets, the better to dig out residents of Cortland and Homer, N.Y., who found their driveways and walkways buried following a major blizzard.
Varsity lacrosse head coach Steven Beville had asked his staff and the entire team to find 10 hours during the winter break to help others in their communities. It’s an annual SUNY Cortland lacrosse tradition. For the past seven or eight years, LAX members have played piano at assisted living centers, ladled lunch in soup kitchen serving lines and mentored at-risk youth at places like the Cortland Youth Bureau.
Wainwright from Homer and Marcuccilli from Geneva, N.Y., pounced on the unexpected community service opportunity that fell from the skies. At 9 a.m. the day after the snowstorm, they went knocking from door to door offering assistance at homes that hadn’t been plowed or shoveled.
“It was 14 inches deep and with drifting,” said Marcuccilli, a senior dual major in sport management and business economics.
“Some houses had a foot and a half or two feet. We are both kind of used to that small community aspect of helping out. We know that, whether it’s in our hometown growing up or our college town, they give us a lot of support growing up and as athletes.”
One of those snowbound Cortland residents was Cheryl Ellsworth Barredo M ’81.
“What a delight it was to meet them that morning,” Barredo said. “They were young men who came to the door in the middle of snow squalls early in the morning. I didn’t expect to hear a ring at my door in the middle of the pandemic. Howling wind, snow squalls, blizzards, and here were these two young men offering to shovel my snow for free.”
Barredo was suspicious at first.
“I said, ‘Just give me a minute and I’ll put on my mask and coat and come out on the porch. As soon as they started talking and mentioned SUNY Cortland, I thought ‘OK,’ and said ‘Sure,’ and I said, ‘You guys are crazy.’”
“We got to work as she had a good-sized driveway,” said Wainwright, a senior business economics major.
“She mentioned how her son-in-law was not able to even get out there that day in time to plow her out so she could pick her daughter up at lunchtime.”
The young men finished in about 20 minutes. Barredo returned to the porch and offered to pay them. They declined and departed to knock on a few more doors.
“I’m retired as a teacher and it was a delight to talk to two students from SUNY Cortland who were selfless and wanting to help shovel driveways for people,” Barredo said. “They so inspired me that when I got home later that day, as soon as I had time, I emailed coach Beville and (SUNY Cortland President) Erik Bitterbaum.”
She further honored the two players with a gift pledge of $1,000 to help the lacrosse program.
“It was an inspiration and it was in recognition of Justin and Anthony and their actions that inspired me to make that next step,” Barredo said.
The lacrosse players weren’t the only Red Dragons helping the community that day. With her driveway cleared, Barredo was able to complete her routine of shuttling her daughter, Maria Barredo, SUNY Cortland advancement operations associate, on her lunch hour from her workplace at Brockway Hall on campus to another community location where Maria Barredo assists with the ongoing care of spayed and neutered cats in a rescue project.
Barredo recalled how, 20 years ago as a Christian Brothers Academy teacher, she had modeled community service for her own students through can and bottle collections to benefit animal rescue.
“This raises their self-esteem, their confidence,” Barredo said about these teachable moments. “They feel good about helping someone else. I’m sure Justin and Anthony felt that way about helping people shovel out their driveways.”
Beville models his lacrosse program’s civic engagement endeavors after the best initiatives he sees across the three athletic divisions and the country.
“That’s our inspiration,” said Beville, noting the team participates in some volunteer activities, such as the annual CROP Hunger Walk fundraiser, as a unit. “We’re all together, it’s the whole team, it’s all of us. We’ve all bought into it and we’re excited about it.”
“I really applaud coach Beville for instilling that passion of community service in his team players,” Barredo said. “It really gives a good foundation and lifelong lesson to anyone who engages in community service. I don’t know how many other drives they shoveled but I really think anyone they came into contact with would be left with a very positive impression. For me it was a real source of Red Dragon pride.”