S. Andrew Bullock, associate director of the Harper Cancer Research Institute, Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny, Ann Rathburn-Lacopo, chief development officer for the Foundation of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, Harper Institute director M. Sharon Stack and 2016 Irish captain Barbara Sullivan at the check presentation.

Charity Central to Irish Women's Lacrosse

Aug. 3, 2016

By Leigh Torbin

When a pair of Notre Dame women’s lacrosse alumni recently lost their fathers to cancer mere months apart, typically, head coach Christine Halfpenny and her program would not sit back idly. The good deeds of the Irish and partner Saint Joseph Health System during the inaugural “Daughters for Dads” game on March 26 against Syracuse came to fruition last week as Halfpenny presented a check for $20,033 to Notre Dame’s Harper Cancer Research Institute.

The responsible citizenship that Halfpenny weaves into the fabric of her program mandated a call to action.

“I’m very proud of the team to have come together and put on an event where we were able to raise awareness and show what cancer research means to the lacrosse program,” Halfpenny said. “Sadly, we’re doing this in the aftermath of losing some of our fathers to their battles with cancer in Don Tremblay (father of Michelle `13) and Bryan Shoemaker (father of Jordy `12). At about the same time, two of my former William & Mary players lost their fathers to cancer too in David Anderson (father of Maggie, W&M ’11) and Phil Mulvey (father of Sarah, W&M ’12).

“That spawned on the initiative to shift our gears and raise our funds for something that specifically hits home.

“I’m thankful for our marketing team, headed by Darin Ottaviani, and our lacrosse team as well as our fans and supporters who were able to raise these funds this year. It makes your heart feel good when you see how excited the Harper Cancer Research Institute is to receive these funds along with the wonderful partnership we have with Saint Joe for them to also help in our fundraising efforts. We look forward to future partnerships.”

Saint Joseph Health System donated $10 for each of the 1,277 fans in attendance as the No. 4 Irish and No. 5 Orange dueled in a thrilling 12-11 contest at Arlotta Stadium. Fans at the game made single donations, bought tennis balls for a halftime “lacrosse toss,” participated on a “Shoot for a Cure” contest outside the stadium, and also joined Halfpenny and others in donating $10 for each of the goals the Irish would eventually tally on that early-spring Saturday.

Of the many worthy cancer research organizations and charities to receive the donation, Halfpenny said that the choice of Harper was a simple one.

“We have our fans in the stands proudly donning the blue and gold through intense heat, rain and snow,” she said. “To know that we have an outstanding cancer research facility right here on campus, it was an obvious choice for our first donation in our fundraising efforts at this level. That partnership shows not just what Notre Dame can do on a small level here on campus but also that we can make an impact in a greater capacity. We wanted to partner with them.”

Cancer research is not the only charitable endeavor that has directly touched the women’s lacrosse program and called it to action.

On March 19, one week prior to the Daughters for Dads fundraising game, the Irish held their inaugural Friends of Victoria Game, raising relationship violence awareness in memory of Victoria Ann McManus, sister of Irish senior Katherine McManus, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend.

As the Irish rolled past No. 9 Virginia, 16-4, on that Saturday, the team raised just shy of $3,000 for a scholarship in Victoria’s name in addition to providing visibility for Notre Dame’s greeNDot program and the One Love Foundation, both of which aim to end relationship violence.

“Unfortunately, like relationship violence, this charity chose us, in a way, to raise funds and aware to put this as a tribute to our amazing fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, brothers and others in the stands that have and will continue to fight this disease,” Halfpenny said. “We want to do whatever we can to help find a cure.

“I’m happy that our team is doing something that is going to make a difference. I know they are so proud of their efforts. This donation goes in the names of the fathers that we fight for every day. Jordy Shoemaker recently said it perfectly as she embarks on a run to help raise funds for cancer research herself, `dollars lead to research, research leads to more time, and more time is priceless’.”

The Irish enjoyed a banner year on the field in 2016, advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2009. The banner year the team celebrated in the community, however, will leave an even greater lasting impression.

JULY LACROSSE NOTES: The Irish were named as an Academic Honor Squad by the IWLCA last week for maintaining a team GPA of at least 3.0 for the 2015-16 academic year. Individually, Emma Claire Fontenot earned a spot on the IWLCA’s Division I Academic Honor Roll for being at least a junior while maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.50.

Congratulations are also in order for assistant coach Katie Powell. Katie and her husband, Brian, welcomed their second child, and second son, Brooks Matthew Powell, on July 5.

The inaugural season of the professional United Women’s Lacrosse League drew to a close on July 31. Two Irish alums played in the UWLX’s debut season. Crysti Foote saw action in all nine games for the Baltimore Ride, scoring five goals and adding an assist. Barbara Sullivan played in four games as a midfielder for the Philadelphia Force, scoring twice and assisting on another goal.


Leigh Torbin, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame’s lacrosse teams while serving as the football publicity team’s top lieutenant. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.