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Pro Athletics, New Balance, ECD Lacrosse and other lacrosse manufacturers aid in COVID-19 relief effort

This article was updated on April 23 to include Fourg Athletics’ work in the relief effort.

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has not only disrupted daily life, but also created a series of economic and logistical problems for many sectors. The sector that has been hit the hardest is the medical industry, with hospitals and healthcare workers experiencing an extreme shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and face shields.

To help provide relief to these mass shortages, many U.S.-based lacrosse manufacturers have converted their operations and began using their machinery to produce PPE.

“We were keeping an eye on the virus and people were shutting down. We laid all the possibilities on the table and said ‘if we do shut down, what do we do?’” Jerry Ragonese, co-owner of Pro Athletics said. “So, we became just one of many [companies] to throw our hat in the ring.”

Pro Athletics converted its machinery, typically used for producing team uniforms and a apparel, to create cloth masks. (Photo courtesy of Pro Athletics)

Ragonese co-founded Pro Athletics, a direct-to-consumer, sports apparel manufacturer based in Agoura Hills, California. In addition to running Pro Athletics, Ragonese also plays lacrosse professionally with Redwoods LC in the PLL. When word of the mass PPE shortage began to come out, Ragonese and the Pro Athletics team shifted gears and began using their machines to produce FDA-approved cloth masks.

“We didn’t want to lay off anybody. That was probably the biggest factor here,” Ragonese discussed. “We looked ahead and realized if this runs several months like they say it could, we could go out of business and have to lay people off. We wanted to make sure we keep our employees working and keep them happy and healthy.”

“It’s nice to see that people were willing to get the word out for us, to see how quickly the lacrosse community rallied behind our little project,” Ragonese added.

Since converting their operation, Pro Athletics’ “project” has been anything but little. Since pivoting to making masks, the company has produced more than 50,000 masks and recently launched a joint campaign with the Premier Lacrosse League to sell team-branded masks with the net proceeds from the sales going to Feeding America.

The PLL has partnered with pro Athletics to sell PLL-themed masks, with all net proceeds going to Feeding America. (Photo courtesy of PLL)

Pro Athletics is just one of several U.S.-based lacrosse manufacturers who have shifted gears amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic. Larger companies such as Cascade, New Balance and StringKing have also  to aid in the COVID-19 relief effort.

“Our Mission Statement begins, ‘We are American innovators with a Passion To Protect…’ and it’s never been more true than today,” Cascade Maverik Lacrosse GM Tim Ellsworth said in a press release.

The helmet manufacturer, like many businesses in New York that were deemed “non-essential” under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s directives, was forced to shut down operations amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. So, Cascade began producing face shields for health providers and medical professionals in need of additional supplies.

New Balance similarly converted both its Lawrence, MA and Norridgewock, ME factories in an effort to produce 100,000 pieces of PPE each week.

“We are simultaneously advancing our current face mask design and materials specifications to ideally meet FDA requirements and achieve a product that can be confidently used by frontline medical staff who require those criteria,” a New Balance spokesperson stated.

New Balance associate using and inspecting face masks at the company’s Lawrence, MA factory. (Photo courtesy of New Balance)

The Los Angeles-based StringKing also answered the call and immediately began producing cloth masks. The company recently started producing three-layered, disposable masks as well.

“We have focused on making the highest quality sports equipment. We have invested heavily in our supply chain and manufacturing in order to deliver the consistency our customers deserve. This has allowed us to pivot extremely fast and guarantee a PPE product that people can trust,” StringKing said in a statement on Twitter.

Even smaller operations such as the Baltimore-based ECD Lacrosse and Asbury, NJ-based Fourg Athletics have been doing their part to support medical professionals fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our engineer Sean Whitney saw that Open Works Baltimore put out a call to anyone with a 3D printer to start making face shields. We have a 3D printer and wanted to do anything we could to help medical workers,” ECD Lacrosse Vice President and Co-Founder Mike Kenneally said. “We have had a lot of people reach out and thank us. We are happy to help in any way possible. It has also been awesome to see other lacrosse companies do the same.”

ECD Lacrosse recently announced that their face shields were available for purchase directly from their website.

Fourg Athletics was another company that answered the call and began producing cloth face masks for the general public.

“As the virus progressed, seasons were getting canceled and PPE shortages began, so we knew we would have to do something. Producing face masks for the general public was the answer,” President of Fourg Athletics Justin Lappen said. “Our goal was to create a face mask for the public to use if they had to go out which would reduce the demand on the N95 masks that those on the front lines desperately need.”

Fourg Athletics also made a direct impact on the law enforcement and healthcare workers when they donated face masks to the New Jersey State Police and the New York Police Department, as well as other healthcare providers on the front lines.

“Supplies are running low and it’s important that we all come together to help them stay stocked while they care for those in need. In addition to donating masks with each order that comes through, we’ve also set up a way to donate masks directly through out website,” Lappen added.

The generosity of the lacrosse community isn’t limited to players and companies. San Diego Seals owner and PLL investor Joe Tsai helped facilitate the donation of 1,000 ventilators to New York, a major hotspot for the COVID-19 disease, and contributed 500,000 pieces of PPE to San Diego health care workers.

The work of these companies and people like Ragonese and Tsai are just several examples of the many people within the lacrosse community doing their part to helps stop the spread of the disease and their efforts provide added meaning to lacrosse’s reputation as “the medicine game.”

“The response from the community has been incredible! They have been very generous and helpful in allowing us to keep our wheels turning as well as donating masks to different organizations,” Lappen said. “It’s safe to say we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what we have without them.”

“There’s no silver bullet to make this go away,” Ragonese said. “But any comfort we can bring to families and the healthcare industry, that’s the least we can do.”

To get in contact with any of these companies about PPE, please use the following contact information below:

Cascade Maverik – Email [email protected]

ECD Lacrosse – Visit ecdlax.com/store/p194/face-shields

Fourg Athletics – Visit fourgathletics.com/shop/m714

New Balance – Visit newbalance.com/covid19/

Pro Athletics – Visit mask.proathletics.com

StringKing – Visit stringking.com/ppe/face-masks/


Hutton Jackson is a professional video editor, co-founder/host of Pro Lacrosse Talk and editor-in-chief of Lacrosse Playground. He is also an Emmy-winning associate producer with two major sports networks and oversees Lacrosse Playground's video content as the head coordinating producer. Hutton played four years of college lacrosse at DeSales University where his highest lacrosse accolade was being named to Inside Lacrosse's 2014 All-Name Team with current pros Challen Rogers, Deemer Class and Larken Kemp, an honor that didn't require stepping on the field. When he's not writing on lacrosse, he can usually be found diving around the crease in your local men's league and ranting about Baltimore and D.C. professional sports.

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