Lacrosse tournament raises awareness in remembrance of local athletes

When Caroline "Care" Gallagher Cranston was diagnosed with AML leukemia in August 2008, her brother-in-law wanted to do something to raise awareness for the disease.

That was an easy decision for Ryan Cranston.

Caroline, a 2002 West Chester Henderson High graduate, was a standout lacrosse player for the Warriors. She went on to play four years at Duquesne, totaling 44 goals and 17 assists for the Dukes. Caroline lost her battle with cancer in May 2010, just 21 months after initial diagnosis.

With her lacrosse background, Ryan created the Care for the Cure Foundation to raise awareness for leukemia and other forms of blood cancer.

The center of the foundation is the annual Care for the Cure Lacrosse Tournament. This weekend will be the fifth installation of the tournament at W.C. Henderson High School.

The Care for the Cure Tournament started with 10 teams in 2009. This weekend's event will have 25 registered teams  with multiple area high school boys and girls squads along with an 18-and-over men's division.

For Cranston, the growth of the tournament over the last five years has really hit home.

"The tournament is a personal matter for my family and me," Cranston said. "It is a personal matter for a lot of families. It is easy to put in the extra work to grow the event with that type of motivation."

The Care for the Cure Tournament has a simple mission. Cranston and the foundation want to bring the lacrosse community together and increase awareness for cancerous diseases, similar to why he started the foundation.

"The main goal is not to have kids come and get recruited," Cranston said. "The awareness we are able to raise in this event. It affects a lot of different people."

Many area scholastic teams are participating in the tournament; notably West Chester Henderson, Downingtown East, Downingtown West and Owen J. Roberts.

Club teams with area high school players also will play in Care for the Cure including the HEADstrong Lacrosse Foundation based in West Chester, Aftershock Lacrosse (Collegeville) and Philadelphia Youth Lacrosse All-Stars (PYLA).

Cranston stated around 90 volunteers helped out with the tournament last year. His and Care's connection to Henderson really drive the tournament each year.

"Both of us are Henderson graduates and the school has done so much to help the foundation," Cranston said. "Athletic director Ken McCormick and the local lacrosse coaches assist in preparation. Each year, we have a senior student get involved and help organize the tournament. It's really cool to see all of the hard work dedicated from all involved."

The proceeds of the tournament go to the Caroline Gallagher Cranston Memorial Fund, which goes to one senior scholar-athlete at Henderson. The scholarship is worth up to $5,000.

The B+ foundation and Kelsey's Legacy will also contribute to the event.

Lacrosse is not the only event held at the Care for the Cure Tournament. There will be local vendors and a silent auction as well. O'Reilly GMC is serving as the official car sponsor of the event and items are donated in the silent auction, including sports memorabilia.

Every year, a DJ attends to play music during the games and skills competitions. James Thorpe is a regular DJ who volunteers his time at each year's event and will do so for this year's tournament. Care for the Cure is also adding in Tom Boyd to DJ with Thorpe.

"The other events make the tournament a little more special," Cranston said. "It makes the tournament fun for all families and players involved."

Cranston said the tournament keeps growing every year and many teams come back to raise blood cancer awareness. Her spirit lives on through this tournament.

"It's amazing how this thing has grown and so many people have been a part of it," Cranston said. "I really wanted to do something for Caroline. This tournament has been a life-changer for me and all of my family. This is always my favorite weekend no matter what I do in life."

Kelsey Lynn Kramer was a junior at Owen J. Roberts High School when her life tragically ended in a single car accident at the age of 16.

Kramer was an honor student and an active athlete. She enjoyed playing soccer at Owen J. Roberts and worked on speed training at the Parisi Speed School in Downingtown, which hands out a scholarship in her name.

Kramer's mother, Lori, knew she wanted to do more to remember and honor her daughter. She wanted Kelsey's legacy to live on with others through community events.

The Kramer family created the Kelsey Kramer Scholarship Fund, which is given to an Owen J. Roberts High School senior every year. According to, the scholarship is given to the senior who embraces Kelsey's integrity, character and shares her values and goals.

Still, Lori felt more needed to be done in Kelsey's name. Kelsey loved the sport of lacrosse and she had a strong connection because of her friends who played. Kelsey had hoped to be the lacrosse manager for Owen J. Roberts her junior and senior year.

Then came the idea to help spread Kelsey's legacy - a lacrosse tournament in her name.

In came Ryan Cranston. 
"With Kelsey's Legacy, my family wanted to make a difference in the lives of youth in a positive way through sports,education and through community outreach activities," Kramer said. "I spoke to Ryan, who was looking to expand his tournament. In speaking with him, I felt at times he was talking about Kelsey when describing Caroline (Gallagher)."

"There seem to be so many similarities between Caroline and Kelsey, in their personalities and in the way they lived and loved life. Both were positive, caring individuals who made a difference in the lives of others. In the end, I wanted to give back to the community in Kelsey's name."

"My mentor, Dave Green, introduced me to the Kramer's and they shared their stories about Kelsey," Cranston said. "The Kramer's are very similar to my family. They have a glass half-full attitude and want to do something to remember Kelsey."

The Care for the Cure Tournament was expanded in Kelsey's name. In came the Kelsey Klassic, which is compiled of eight teams in an 18-and-over men's division.

Several local area high school alumni teams and players are participating in the Kelsey Klassic, including W.C. Henderson, Downingtown East, Downingtown West and Owen J. Roberts.

Lori mentioned the start of the Kelsey Klassic would not have been possible if it wasn't for Cranston's help.

"(Ryan's) tremendous to work with," Kramer said. "He's had a successful established tournament in giving back and increasing awareness for cancer. We're really looking forward to the event, but nervous since this is our first one. It's great to see the outpouring from the community and their support."

Ryan and Lori have known each other for a year and continue to share stories about Caroline and Kelsey. Both continue to use that chemistry to run a successful event for a strong cause.

"We share our ideas and keep it personal to have that connection with Kelsey and Caroline," Kramer said. "It's a time the community, family and friends can come together, which is special to me."

"Many of Kelsey's friends still feel connected, remember and want to support Kelsey's Legacy. Kelsey was about giving and caring and she would want us to do the same."

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