Lacrosse team adopts boy fighting cancer as honorary team member

By James McEvoy
Oak Knoll’s lacrosse program has adopted a young man battling cancer as an honorary team member providing daily vlogs, wearing his initials on warmup gear and planning fundraisers.
Daniel “Danny” McManus, 12, of Armonk, New York, is fighting acute myeloid leukemia. An avid athlete himself, Danny plays lacrosse, basketball and football, and participated in an all-day lacrosse tournament the day before his diagnosis in October 2017.

Since his diagnosis, he has undergone countless medical procedures including two stem cell transplants. Danny’s first stem cell donor was his older brother Colin and his second donor was his mother, Deirdre McManus. It’s been just over 100 days since his last transplant and his leukemia has not returned.

He has had a tough and long road to recovery, including a short stay in the intensive-care unit after recently experiencing a complication to his treatment, but his family says doctors have been pleased with his progress.

Ever since Oak Knoll Head Lacrosse Coach Rachel Lasda heard about Danny through the Casey Powell World Lacrosse Foundation, she knew supporting him was a cause her players would embrace.

“The lacrosse community is very tight-knit,” Lasda said. “It is important to continue to provide this environment of closeness and support to lacrosse players of all ages.”

“Our goal with Danny is to bring him and his family smiles, love, support and prayers for a full and speedy recovery,” she added. “In true Cornelia Connelly fashion of ‘Actions, not words,’ the 2019 lacrosse team has dedicated this season to something far greater than what they can accomplish on the field.”

While the entire team has been engaged, the project has been led by the senior athletes, Lasda said.

So far, the seniors put together a welcome video for Danny, which has been followed by each player recording a vlog of their day. In one such video, Elizabeth Settle ’19 provided Danny a snapshot of her classes at Oak Knoll and lacrosse practice at the athletic fields in Chatham.

Senior Whitney Kripsak ’19 said the whole team has embraced Danny, who has inspired each player through his determination and perseverance.

“The whole team has loved working with the McManus family this season and this is a cause we are all strongly moved and inspired by,” Kripsak said. “We have had positive feedback from the family about the vlogs and hope to continue to put a smile on Danny’s face every day.”

The initiative has also reminded the student-athletes to be thankful for their own blessings.

“As a team, we are becoming more conscious of developing a mindset that is more appreciative of every moment out on the field together and not taking our team or sport for granted,” Kripsak said. “Danny truly inspires our team in so many ways and we hope we can bring joy to him during this time.”

So far, the students have made quite the impression and have come up with “amazing ideas,” said Danny’s mom Deirdre.

“The girls are so motivated, and they have sent Danny a wonderful introduction video in which they introduced the players and the coaches during practice,” she said. “The team has done such a wonderful job including Danny as part of the team. He really has been enjoying watching the videos and getting to know the team.”

She hopes her son will continue to get to know the athletes and attend a game before season’s end.

The team’s efforts come nearly a year after they similarly supported one of their own, Audrey Carrion ’18 who beat thyroid cancer, by raising more than $800 for the American Cancer Society at a
Lax Play Day clinic.

The Casey Powell World Lacrosse Foundation was founded in 2014 by Hall of Fame lacrosse player Casey Powell. The foundation’s mission is to provide support moments for severely injured and sick lacrosse players, many of whom have cancer. For more than four years, the foundation has supported more than 30 players and their families through very difficult times and on their journeys toward wellness.
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Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child is a Catholic independent school coeducational from kindergarten to grade 6 and all girls in grades 7 to 12. Oak Knoll was founded in 1924 and is one of 10 schools in the Holy Child Network of Schools that provides independent Catholic education across the United States.

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