May 14, 2011 will be a day remembered for a long time. The first annual Pockets and Sockets Tournament, the brainchild of Jennifer and Andrew Bolger, commenced in Delray Beach, FL. Over 25 Florida teams, from Weston to Stuart, attended the 7v7 tournament with the proceeds benefiting the Michael Stolzenberg Trust. With over 300 players at the event, one stole the show. Playing in a lacrosse game for the first time since becoming a 4-time amputee, Mikey electrified the crowd with his inspiring play. Three short years ago, this moment didn’t seem possible.
On July 22, 2008, Mikey was rushed to the emergency room with a bacterial infection that was not responding to antibiotics. He went into septic shock and bravely endured a ventilator and dialysis for the next seven weeks. Once the bacteria infecting Michael was finally identified as Chromobacterium Violaceum, the doctors were able to target it with effective antibiotics. As a true testament of his spirit, Mikey survived, but the oxygen deprivation to his limbs could not be reversed, sadly resulting in the amputation of both of his hands and feet.
The Pockets and Sockets Tournament was created to raise money for Mikey’s prosthetics. While basic prosthetics are covered by insurance, the type that Mikey needs to have normalcy in his life, are not. As difficult as dealing with one amputation would be for an 11 year-old, Mikey lives with four, each requiring a prosthetic that needs to be replaced bi-annually, as he continues to grow.
The special prosthetics that allow Mikey to have normalcy in his life provided him with the ability to take to the lacrosse field for the first time in three years this weekend. That alone was enough to send chills up the spines of everyone in the crowd. What happened next was nothing short of amazing. Playing for the Florida Snipers Under-11 Black Team, Mikey entered the game with the team leading 4-0. With his prosthetic legs fit into his new lacrosse cleats and gripping the stick as best as he could, he entered the game on attack on the right side of the field. He immediately went for a groundball and got knocked down. But as he always does, Mikey got up. Mikey doesn’t quit and he certainly wasn’t going to come out of the game.
What happened next was something that would change the lives of everyone in attendance. All of a sudden a fast break caused his defender to leave him, and a perfectly thrown pass landed in his stick for a point blank shot and……he missed just wide. A few minutes later another opportunity came and again his shot sailed wide-right.
Not knowing whether another shot would come, most 11-year-olds would be frustrated, but Mikey isn’t most 11-year-olds. He perseveres. He has to. Even as his next shot hit the post and he heard the collective gasp of the crowd who wanted to see that ball hit the net as badly as he did, he wouldn’t stop.
Then it happened. On his fourth shot, Mikey had scored!
As the ball was replaced and saved as a memento, the crowd hugged, reached for tissues and tried to comprehend the amazing spirit, heart and determination it took for him to not only take the field, but to score a goal. Mikey then did what any other 11-year-old would do: he went back to his position and continued playing lacrosse with his friends.
Mikey would go to on to score two goals in the next game and his Snipers team would win the championship a few hours later.
Years from now no one will remember the wins and losses. They will remember the 11-year-old boy who inspires them to never give up. They’ll remember the determination, the grit, the guts and the heart it took to merely step onto the field. Most of all, they’ll remember that nothing is impossible.