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Making a difference

March 17, 2016
On April 26, some MLL players took time out of their schedules to visit the Gorilla Lacrosse Club in Ft. Myers, Fla., and hold a clinic to help raise funds for Dillon Simmons, a young man who is recovering from brain stem cancer.

Rochester Rattlers Kevin Leveille and Steve DeNapoli were joined by the Ohio Machine’s own Chazz Woodson as they taught the kids tips and tricks on how to improve their game.

 “We just came out to hang with our buddy Dillon who’s a little bit under the weather right now,” Leveille said. “We had a great turnout of about 70 guys down here, some Gorillas, some that used to be the Rattlers, actually. So Steve DeNapoli, myself and Chazz Woodson were out here for about a couple hours teaching them some of the basics to the game. They were a great group, really responsive, really listened, really athletic, so we had a great day.”

Leveille stressed the importance professional athletes of giving back to the community and was pleasantly surprised by the participation.

“Doing things like this clinic means everything for us,” Leveille continued. “We want to give back; it’s just kind of the nature of the sport. To be able to come from Syracuse down to Ft. Myers where you’re not sure what you’re going to expect, and to come out and have a great group of guys who are way ahead of where you thought they’d be and just be a part of their game growing up, it’s great. It feels awesome for us, and hopefully they walk away feeling pretty good about things.”

Denise Simmons, Dillon’s mother, was also very happy with the community support.

“It was really awesome,” Mrs. Simmons said. “Dillon, as you know, is suffering from brain stem cancer and he’s doing really, really well. He’s had three surgeries and he’s doing amazing, and the Gorilla Lacrosse Club was able to raise $3500 to help with medical bills, as we’re trying to save money to go to Indiana for this special treatment to kill cancer.”

Both Leveille and Mrs. Simmons agree on the importance of providing positive role models and the impact athletes have on young children

 “I think it’s pretty unique, really,” Leveille said. “I mean, when I was growing up our focus was the college guys because they were the kind of elite at that point, so for them to be able to interact with professional guys I would think it’d be really a great experience for them. To have guys who have gone through the collegiate level and have played professionally at the highest level in the world giving them one-on-one coaching is certainly great and it seems like they really appreciated it.”

“I think it’s amazing,” Simmons echoed. “The kids look up to these guys and when  they see them on their level, it’s just reaffirming that no matter how big you get up in the sport that they’re still human and they can still see on your level. And they care, they really do care, and it was really awesome to have them out there.

The next day, Dillon got to be a part of game day festivities at the Rattlers opening match in St. Petersburg, Fla., as he was named Rochester’s honorary captain, threw out the first shot and got to watch some of the game from the sidelines with the Rattlers.

When asked how Dillon felt about it all, Mrs. Simmons had nothing but positive comments.

“He was amazed,” she concluded. “He just was shocked by all the outreach and support, and all of his friends and coaches and everybody. He woke up the next morning, grabbed his Rattlers jersey and said: ‘That was so cool yesterday!’ It was just really amazing.”

For information on how to make a donation to the fundraising effort please visit