Triplets Patrick, Ryan and John Driscoll turned 2 on Monday, June 23, but they had to celebrate without their dad, who died in November of a brain tumor at 44.
But to honor his memory, teach young children to play the sport he loved — lacrosse — and raise money for his young sons' future college education, two Centreville men are holding a memorial lacrosse camp.
Sonny Esposito and Larry Megale, both of Virginia Run, were roommates with Johnny Driscoll at the University of Virginia — where they all played lacrosse and from which they graduated in 1980. Driscoll especially excelled in the sport.
At U.Va., he was a three-time All-American, received the Lt. Donald McLaughlin Jr. Memorial Award for being Most Outstanding Midfielder in Division I NCAA competition, was a North-South All-Star and was on the USA national teams that won the World Championship in 1982 and 1986. A standout player, Driscoll was inducted into the Long Island Metro Lacrosse Hall of Fame, the Virginia Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
He loved the fast pace and fun of the sport, as well as the camaraderie and strong bonds that develop among its players. He also loved his wife, Kara, and their three little boys.
"John was at the top of his game at every level, but he never let it go to his head," said Esposito. "And he was a great friend, father and husband. He was, above all, a man of character, integrity and strength."
After college, Driscoll moved to Manhattan. But in 1996, he was diagnosed with a tumor that was part of his brain tissue and was inoperable. And although doctors were able to get it under control for awhile, it eventually took his life.
Last spring, he and his family moved to South Bend, Ind., where Kara's relatives live, and also so he could take a job there at the University of Notre Dame. Another one of his U.Va. teammates, Kevin Corrigan, is head lacrosse coach for the Fighting Irish, and Driscoll was going to be his assistant coach.
He began his new position there in the fall, and buddies Megale and Esposito visited him in November. "He showed us around the campus, and we played touch football and talked about old times," said Esposito. "We also talked about putting together a lacrosse camp and giving the proceeds to charity."
They considered helping children like Megale's daughter Shea, 7, who is wheelchair-bound from spinal muscular atrophy, a rare and incurable form of muscular dystrophy. When Megale first got the news about her illness, Driscoll was a great source of comfort for him.
"He was everybody's best friend. You could talk to him about anything," said Megale. "When he was dealing with his brain tumor, and my wife and I were dealing with Shea's diagnosis, we were there for each other."
Shortly after the Nov. 12 visit from his Centreville friends, Driscoll lost his battle against the tumor. "Five days later, Johnny lapsed into a coma, and he was pronounced dead the next Tuesday," said Esposito. "He got taken in the prime of his life."
"We were all inseparable in college," said Megale. "You think nothing bad will ever happen. In lacrosse, he was larger than life — and then, all of a sudden, this happened. It hit us pretty hard. But he was always upbeat about it and optimistic; he was going to deal with it his way — not let it slow him down."
However, said Esposito, his medical condition prevented him from being able to get life insurance, and his widow — a full-time mom — still has their three sons to raise. So Megale and Esposito are carrying out their idea of a lacrosse camp, but contributing the proceeds to the John Driscoll Children's Trust Fund.
The John Driscoll Memorial Lacrosse Camp will take place July 4, 5 and 6, for boys 7-17, at George Mason University's athletic fields and field house. Cost is $80 for children 7-9 and $150 for 10-17. Further information and an application are available at www.jd32laxcamp.com, or call Esposito at 703-926-1732.
"It's going to be a neat, three-day camp," said Megale. "The players will learn the fundamentals, plus some cool secrets. We've got some of the best coaches around — a very impressive lineup."
The staff includes Megale, Centreville High's lacrosse coach and a 10-year, youth-sports coach; Esposito, former girls lacrosse coach at Langley High and a seven-year youth-sports coach; Bruce Arena, U.S. World team head coach; Corrigan of Notre Dame; Dom Starsia, U.Va. head coach; and Dave Cottle, Dave Urick, Bill Tierney, John Danowski and Mike Caravana, head coaches at Maryland, Georgetown, Princeton, Hofstra and Dennison, respectively.
Donations may also be made to the John Driscoll Children's Trust Fund and sent c/o Sonny Esposito, 15313 Surrey House Way, Centreville, VA 20120.