This winter, senior Will Dadouris received a Prudential Community Service Award, the most recent in a series of awards, including silver and gold presidential and congressional service medals, that recognize his work with ReLax, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit that he launched in 2014.
Through ReLax, Dadouris collects new and used lacrosse equipment—to date more than $165,000 worth—which he then distributes to underserved lacrosse programs throughout the world. On any given day, the seventeen-year-old can be found driving an SUV full of sticks and helmets to a school in Newark, boxing up a shipment for a youth group in Texas or spearheading a collection for a club in Costa Rica or Uganda. On the weekends, he often helps out by assisting youth clinics in the tristate area.
The range of organizations Dadouris serves is remarkable, underscoring his commitment to ReLax and his ability to connect with others. He is in touch with professional athletes, high-end equipment manufactures and fledgling youth groups. Last week, he saw that Warrior (a big name in the lacrosse world) was introducing a new stick, and within a few days, he had fired off a grant proposal. He spends at least an hour each day simply managing the social media accounts for ReLax. "Instagram and Facebook are huge," he says. "That is where we get most of our information about finding donations and connecting with clubs that need equipment." The administrative aspects of ReLax are no small undertaking, and Dadouris is grateful to his classmates Emma Cullen, Kaitlyn Sleyster and Jack Wetzel, who routinely help with the social media piece as well as with marketing, website development and emails.
While ReLax helps to bring the sport of lacrosse to athletes who might not otherwise have the chance to play, Dadouris believes that participation in lacrosse paves the way to a host of other benefits. "We use lacrosse as a way to promote education and help kids make better choices," he says. "Before you can play, you need to be attending your classes and maintaining a certain GPA. At first, you may only do it because you need to, but eventually you will become interested in learning."
The idea for ReLax evolved from a volunteer opportunity with Fields of Growth (a nonprofit that works with underserved lacrosse programs in Jamaica and Uganda) the summer before Dadouris started high school. In addition to coaching a team in Jamaica for a week, each volunteer was tasked with collecting two duffle bags of equipment for the program. Dadouris collected enough equipment to fill his driveway, and he had to enlist help from other volunteers to transport it. "I collected 30 helmets," he says. "With 24, you have enough for a team. I realized how I could make difference doing something so simple for the sport I loved." After that, Dadouris continued to collect equipment for Fields of Growth and other nonprofits, and in 2014 he decided to form ReLax with the hope of expanding his impact.
Talking with Dadouris, it is easy to understand the success of ReLax. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious, his commitment unmistakable. While Dadouris admits that he works hard, he credits the lacrosse community—which he says is unlike what you will find in any other sport—with helping ReLax to grow so quickly. "Lacrosse is definitely a community," he offers. "Whether you make wood sticks or the highest-end products, you want to help out the starting programs and everyone in between. Recently Kaitlyn and I attended LaxCon, and there were literally a hundred companies that wanted to help us out. That team mentality extends to anyone in the world of lacrosse."
Dadouris is also quick to acknowledge the support he gets from family, friends, team and coach. He recalls a picture-perfect Saturday last spring when Gill hosted a lacrosse team from the Bronx. A full day, it began with a coaching clinic and ended with the visiting coaches boxing up equipment they would need to keep their program going. "It was just a great day," Dadouris says. "Coach Callanan set the whole thing up, organizing the clinic and the equipment drive. I remember thinking about how much we have at Gill—this beautiful field and campus and the chance to practice every day with Coach Callanan, who is all about honor and service and giving back. That’s lacrosse at its best, and that’s what I want to share with as many people as possible."
This June, Dadouris will graduate Gill St. Bernard’s. He has committed to play the sport he loves with Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He will also continue his work with ReLax from there. "Relax isn’t something that I just created in my junior year at Gill to be abandoned when I graduate. Seeing all of the support we have gotten, I feel a personal obligation to keep it going, and I want to keep it going; I can’t wait to keep it going. ReLax has become this huge part of who I am and what I want to do."
Dean of Student Life David Pasquale presented Dadouris with the Prudential award at an Upper School assembly on February 21. "Our student body is incredibly active in the area of community service, and Will has gone 'above and beyond' with several impressive service projects. This recent award is certainly well deserved and recognizes his impactful and authentic efforts," he said.
Dadouris is a New Governor’s STEM Scholar, a Brine National Lacrosse All-American, recipient of four Presidential Volunteer Service Awards and of the Duke of Edinburgh International Youth Award. At Gill, he maintains a 4.0+ GPA and is captain of the varsity lacrosse team. More information about ReLax can be found on the organization’s website and Facebook page.