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May 8, 2018 1:02 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

North, South Fork Lacrosse Communities Team Up To Support Morgan Leary, A Six-Year-Old Battling A Brain Tumor

Members of the Westhampton Beach and South Fork boys lacrosse teams meet Morgan Leary and her parents, Brian and Emily, and twin sister, Emma.
May 8, 2018 4:39 PM

Westhampton Beach High School was host to a pair of lacrosse matches on Friday, between the host Hurricanes and the South Fork boys lacrosse teams, followed by the Westhampton Beach and Mattituck girls lacrosse teams. But the contests were secondary to the real cause that brought the teams out.

The players from the two forks joined together to raise funds for a family in need. Morgan Leary, 6, of Center Moriches, the daughter of Brian Leary, an East Hampton High School math teacher, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor in August 2014. Since then, she has undergone several surgeries to remove as much of the tumor as possible and to control the pressure on her brain. Morgan also underwent proton radiation chemotherapy for 290 straight days to battle the tumor, Mr. Leary explained on Tuesday morning.

But on Friday, Morgan’s spirits were certainly high, as she, her father, mother Emily and twin sister Emma arrived at the field near the end of the boys lacrosse game. She took a group photo with both teams and her family, then Morgan was made the honorary captain of the girls lacrosse game that followed.

Overall, the lacrosse communities raised more than $10,000 for the Leary family to help with medical expenses. Most of the donations were raised by selling T-shirts donated by the involved school districts and specifically made for the cause, which read “Lacrosse Supports United By Morgan.”

Mr. Leary was deeply appreciative of the community support and said that both Morgan and her sister, Emma, were excited to be on the field at Westhampton Beach on Friday.

“On the way there, they were laughing and smiling and being giddy,” he explained. “They both really enjoyed being there and being able to hang out with some of the players. It was great to see all of the support from people that we didn’t really know but they really cared for us and offered their help.”

“They did a great job raising money throughout the different districts, and I thank everyone who supported us and our family,” Mr. Leary added.

The effort to support the Learys started with Ralph Naglieri, a teacher at East Hampton and an assistant coach on the boys lacrosse team at Westhampton Beach. Naglieri said that he and Westhampton Beach head coach Drew Peters have been trying to come up with a fundraising-type of game to support a local family in need for the past few seasons, but that the schedule happened to work out perfectly on Friday, since Westhampton Beach was hosting South Fork, a team made up of student-athletes and coaches from Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Pierson, Southampton and Ross school districts.

On top of the schedules working out, there were also a number of connections with all involved and the Leary family. South Fork head coach Matt Babb is related to the Learys, former East Hampton varsity boys lacrosse head coach Mike Vitulli, who helped in the fundraising efforts, is a Center Moriches resident, and East Hampton Athletic Director Joe Vasile-Cozzo is a Mattituck resident whose daughter plays on the girls lacrosse team there and he was also a coach and AD at one time in Center Moriches.

Everyone just wanted to help the Learys, Naglieri said.

“It seemed to be a good time to help out the family,” he said. “Morgan seemed really happy, as did Emma, her twin sister.

“As honorary captain for the girls’ game, she got to go out and high-five the girls. That was great,” Naglieri added. “She’s an amazing little kid who is facing such an uphill battle.”

For more of Morgan’s story, or to donate to the Leary family, see gofundme.com/UnitedByMorgan.

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