RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Samantha Pickholz of Ridgewood, a 13-year-old lacrosse player, is at the threshold of a great adventure in her sport.
The Benjamin Franklin Middle School student is raising $4,000 in a GoFundMe campaign.
Why? So she can take up the Israel Lacrosse Association on a special invitation.
Pickholz, a goalie in the Building Blocks Lacrosse Club, is the only lacrosse player from Bergen County to be invited to play on the association’s U-17 Winter Service Trip Team in Serbia and Israel .
Over winter break, the U-17 team will meet up with the Israeli Women’s World Cup Team, the Israeli U-15 World Cup Team, and other European national teams.
Together, they will work in a humanitarian effort to bring lacrosse to underprivileged girls in high-risk areas of the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
Pickholz sought out the opportunity because of an experience she had a few years ago.
“My club team invited some girls from Harlem to come play lacrosse and practice with us,” Pickholz said. “A lot of people think that underprivileged girls who live in these poor cities are so much different than us. Truthfully, they’re not.
“By the end of the season, I realized they were just like us,” she added. “The only difference is that they don’t have a chance.”
Pickholz realizes that lacrosse can be more than a sport to underprivileged girls her age in that part of the world.
Young women of different races and religions who play sports, she said, are more likely to do better in school and graduate and less likely to commit crimes or join gangs.
“We’re trying to put a lacrosse stick in young girls’ hands instead of a gun,” she said.
Her club coach, Michelle Bradbury, called Pickholz one of the nicest, hardest working young ladies she has ever had the pleasure to coach.
“I’m proud of her for combining her passion for lacrosse and her desire to help those less fortunate in a trip/mission like this one,” Bradbury said.
According to Michael Pickholz, Samantha’s father, many people think of Serbia as just a war-torn area and Israel as a place populated just by Jewish people.
But most of the youths who will be helped by the lacrosse outreach effort, he said, will be Arab, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian.
“They have diverse cultures, just like we do,” he said. “The best way to solve the world’s problems is to get people to actually know each other and care.”
To contribute to the GoFundMe campaign, CLICK HERE .