Tampa Catholic lacrosse players rally around their coach’s cause

The Crusaders will participate in the Tampa Bay MG Walk, which benefits people like Joe Ferraro’s niece who battle a disease that weakens skeletal muscles.
Tampa Catholic girls lacrosse coach Joe Ferraro measures the field before painting the regulation lines a few days before the 2019 season began. Ferraro is in his fourth year as the Crusaders coach and once again has his team excited about the games and participating in local service projects. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Tampa Catholic girls lacrosse coach Joe Ferraro measures the field before painting the regulation lines a few days before the 2019 season began. Ferraro is in his fourth year as the Crusaders coach and once again has his team excited about the games and participating in local service projects. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Published February 21

TAMPA — One night four years ago, a 7-year-old girl in Illinois named Eden Nelson went to sleep, much like she did every night.

She woke up forever changed.

A rare and incurable disease called Myasthenia gravis had begun to take hold, weakening skeletal muscles, making it difficult to breathe and move her arms and legs.

In Tampa, her uncle, Joe Ferraro, got the news. He was alarmed and worried and feeling tremendous frustration because he wanted to do something to help.

But what could he do? What resources did he have? He was 57 and retired from the insurance business and coaching girls lacrosse at Tampa Catholic.

He went online and started learning about Myasthenia gravis, or “MG,” and in his search he found something close to home, the “Tampa Bay MG Walk,” an event designed to raise awareness and money to help battle the disease.

He went to lacrosse practice at Tampa Catholic and somewhere along the way, whether it was on a green T-shirt, or on the side of a building, or on the TC website, he noticed the words on the school’s code of arms: Ceritas Veritas, which basically is Latin for “love and truth in charity.”

He then put two and two together.

“Why not put ‘Ceritas Veritas’ to use?” he said.

Beginning four years ago, the year Ferraro took over the Crusaders, TC’s girls lacrosse team has participated in the “Tampa Bay MG Walk,” and they will do it again on Saturday at 9 a.m. in Eagle Lake Park in Largo — helping raise money for the cause.

“I had never heard of MG before Coach Joe told us about it,” TC senior attacker Jaeden Waschbusch said of the disease that affects more than 80,000 Americans. “But when he explained it to us and then explained what he wanted to do we were all in. We wanted to represent TC on and off the field. We wanted to help if we could.”

In the process, the Crusaders have learned a little more about the joy in helping and giving, and they have grown closer as a team, sharing in the effort.

“During the walk (Ferraro) called his niece so she could see all of us, and we could see her and she was so cute and appreciative and happy and we were so happy to see her,” Waschbusch said. “It was a great moment.”

That type of bonding appears to have translated into a more cohesive team in every way, as seen in the improving TC records the past three years, from 6-13 in 2016, to 9-10 in 2017 to 12-9 in 2018.

The expectation this year, of course, is even higher as the schedule begins this week with games against Bartow, Newsome and Robinson.

“It’s been a great experience being a part of lacrosse (at TC),” said Waschbusch, who didn’t start playing the game until her freshman year but this year received a scholarship to play at Rockhurst University in Kansas City. “I’ve learned so much.”

Tampa Bay MG Walk

What: Benefits research for Myasthenia gravis, a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease that weakens the skeletal muscles for breathing and moving parts of the body, including arms and legs. Myasthenia gravis is Latin and Greek in origin, meaning “grave or serious muscle weakness.”

When: Saturday; check in begins at 9 a.m.

Where: Eagle Lake Park, Largo

For more information: Call 1-855-649-2557 or email [email protected].

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