Seventy-seven is a number Milford resident Joey Honcz will always remember.

The 11 year-old Lacrosse for Wishes recipient spent 77 days in the hospital this time last year with a cancer diagnosis. And now, after a full recovery, Joey will be spending the next 77 days — and beyond — on the lacrosse field with his friends.

Joey and his fellow teammates from across the state gathered to kick off their season and honor one of their own at Trumbull’s ultimate trampoline park, Rockin’ Jump, on March 14.

Make-A-Wish Connecticut’s Lacrosse for Wishes is a travel lacrosse program that was established in 2012 by Bill Giugno to give young athletes exposure and access to competitive summer tournaments.

In just four years, these young men and women have helped grant more than 30 wishes for kids their own age.

Thanks to these remarkable young athletes, Joey’s wish to go on a Disney cruise was granted in February.

When asked about the best part of his cruise, Joey smiled and said, “I’ll be thinking for a while.”

“It is incredible to be part of something that, year after year, has engaged more and more youth from our communities across Connecticut,” said Kim Smith, development director for Make-A-Wish Connecticut. “Kids helping kids through Lacrosse For Wishes has had a tremendous impact on the families involved and has created a contagious growth in the program.”

The cruise trip wasn’t the only wish that was granted for Joey.

The young lacrosse player signed a one-day contract to play with Connecticut’s professional indoor lacrosse team, the New England Black Wolves, on the first of May.

Drenched in an oversized No. 77 Black Wolves jersey, the toughest player in the program couldn’t help but smile as he posed for pictures.

“I’m really excited to do this on May 1 and I’m really happy that the make a wish foundation has helped me with what I have gone through”, said Joey.  

Fundraising model

Lacrosse For Wishes has an innovative fundraising model that combines fundraising for a worthwhile cause and the game of lacrosse.

Rather than pay to play in summer tournaments, as most travel teams do, these young athletes feverishly fundraise year round to help make a difference in the lives of Wish kids on and off the field.

In lieu of normal summer tournament fees, each athlete is required to raise $500.

Beginning with one team in 2012 and a $30,000 contribution, Lacrosse for Wishes has evolved into a fundraising juggernaut comprising of 180 total players, both boys, and girls.

To date, the nonprofit has raised over $300,000 in donations.

Through the fundraising, the athletes learned the value of community service as well as volunteering their time to an effort greater than themselves.

Smith praised Rockin’ Jump for lending Make a Wish the space to make the March 14 event possible.

“Steve and Roni Rodier (the owners) are huge with reaching out and we always have a charity event were doing and we change it up every month,” said Tom Rago, a Rockin’ Jump employee.   “It’s such a family atmosphere, we do a light it up for autism which is going on this month and they just continue to always reach out to the community”