Even from 1,600 miles away, Rapid City High School senior Pearl Cano was brought to tears as she watched the violence unfold eight weeks ago in Charlottesville, Va.
After a white nationalist rally in the city, a man plowed his car into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring at least 19. Cano found herself in a position to be part of the healing in Virginia when her lacrosse coach, Cody Hall, approached her with an opportunity.
Hall, who coaches Rapid City's 7 Flames Lacrosse program, is friends with University of Virginia men’s lacrosse coach Lars Tiffany. The university's campus is within a few miles of where the violence broke out during the protests.
After giving it some thought, Hall had an idea. “I called (Tiffany) up the next day and just asked him how he and his wife and his family are doing," he said. "Then we started talking about the current event that was playing out and I said, ‘Why don’t we play a healing, medicine game?’
"He got quiet about it on the phone and he said, 'You know, that’s a great idea, why don’t we work with it?' And I said, ‘That’s all I need, coach.'"
The game is set to coincide with the UVA alumni lacrosse game on Friday. Hall will take Cano and RCHS junior Angelo Ruiz to participate in the medicine game, which will take place after the alumni game.
Hall, who is Native American, understands the deep ties lacrosse has with the Native community. The sport traces its roots to Native culture in the U.S. and Canada.
A medicine game is a form of religious expression. The two teams pray as they make the ball for the game. They also pray during the game, and in most situations no score is kept. The game was designed as a way to heal, and Hall and Cano hope that it can bring some healing to Charlottesville.
“This game is love, and it brings happiness, it brings everyone together," Cano said. "When you’re down, it brings you up. When you’re playing, you laugh. It’s a great sport."
Lacrosse 'a way of life'
As a part of the game, a friend of Hall's will sing Native American songs.
Lacrosse is popular in Virginia, and Ruiz said he's excited to teach people about the historical links the game has with Native culture.
“To me, it’s not just a sport, it’s a way of life,” Ruiz said. “I think it’s a good thing that we’re going over there to show them that it’s not just a sport to us."
Ruiz has played lacrosse since 2014 and joined 7 Flames at last season.
“I’m happy (when I’m playing), I forget everything that’s going on,” he said. “All I’m thinking about is 'how do I score, how do I help my team?' It’s a really good feeling; when I get the ball I just zone out.”
Hall said the trip will also give Cano and Ruiz a chance to see what a top Division I program looks like. Cano is being recruited by some Division I schools.
“I thought lacrosse was such a goofy sport at first,” Cano said with a laugh. “My friend wanted me to play with her and I was nervous because I didn’t know how to cradle or anything. When we started I was laughing, but after we started practice I kept on going because people there showed me how to have fun with it.”
Hall said there's still a lot of tension on UVA's campus, something he hopes the game will help alleviate.
"We’re asking people to come forth and just let that go,” he said.