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Dhane Smith and EvoShield Team Up for Tucker Out Lymphoma Night

It’s been nine years, and thinking about the tragic death of Tucker Williams hasn’t gotten any easier for the lacrosse community.

Tucker was the son of former Buffalo Bandits star and NLL Hall of Famer Shawn Williams. He was only eight years old when he lost his courageous battle with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. It was a defining moment for the sport and for many who love the game, creating the rallying cry of #BraverThanBrave to describe the little boy who fought so valiantly.

To this day, the lacrosse community encourages the awareness of, and fundraising for, research and a cure for lymphoma. The event that started it all was the first-ever Tucker Out Lymphoma Night, held by the Bandits on April 5, 2014, just eight months before Tucker’s death.

2024 will be the 10th time the Bandits have hosted the game, and it will be the 10th one that Bandits’ star Dhane Smith has played in. The Bandits will host Tucker Out Lymphoma Night tonight, Friday, January 19 as they host the New York Riptide at 7:30 p.m. at KeyBank Center.

Smith was in his second year in the NLL in 2014, still a wide-eyed, young player soaking up everything around him for the first time. Shawn Williams was one of the leaders that Smith looked up to.

“When I first came to the team, Shawn Williams took me under his wing,” Smith said, and through Shawn, he met the rest of the family, including Tucker. “I wasn’t close to Tucker in age but I was the youngest on the Bandits at the time by quite a bit. I couldn’t really understand what was going on at the time but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand the loss. I can’t imagine being a parent and losing a kid to lymphoma.”

Smith said Tucker was a positive child, “always wanting to be around the guys and wanting to play lacrosse and hockey. The word ‘brave’ was bang on.”

It was a tough season with Shawn sometimes at the arena, and sometimes at the hospital with Tucker.

“For Shawn to keep playing, I don’t even know how he did it, but I know that’s what Tucker would have wanted him to do,” Smith said. “It’s crazy to see how close the lacrosse community has become. If people don’t really know the story, they’re willing to hear about it and then will also help out to the best of their abilities. I feel like Tucker will always be part of this organization and the sport in general.”

Smith is still close with Williams and is looking forward to experiencing the Desert Dogs’ Tucker Out Lymphoma night on Saturday, April 20th as a member of the opposition.

“Shawn always jokes about getting me to Vegas and playing for him but unfortunately I don’t see that happening,” Smith laughed.

Smith credits Bandits’ Director of Lacrosse Operations Scott Loffler with keeping Tucker Out Lymphoma Night going through the years.

“It was very important to our team at the time, and even to this day I know a lot of people on our team are aware of it, but some aren’t. I try to tell the younger guys that if they want to know a little bit about him, I’m more than willing to share,” Smith said.

Personally, Smith always wanted to do more for the event, and so last year, teamed up with league sponsor EvoShield to create custom protective gear that he wore and then auctioned off, with proceeds supporting the Tucker Williams Braver Than Brave Memorial Fund at Toronto’s Hospital For Sick Children.

Smith and EvoShield have teamed up again this year to create new custom Braver Than Brave protective gear for the game. It’s been an ideal partnership, Smith said.

“They’re very open minded. When I told them the Tucker game meant a lot to me, they said ‘Okay let’s make the custom guards’. At first it was just for myself, but I asked how I could give back more and EvoShield brought it to my attention that we could auction them off and raise money for a great cause.”

Smith said that EvoShield allows him to express himself and takes his input into the design of the equipment. He’ll be wearing custom wrist guards, custom elbow guards, a custom chest protector and will use a custom stick and special shoes.

The wrist and elbow guards Smith will don will be lime green (the colour of lymphoma support) and orange (Tucker’s favourite colour) and will feature Tucker’s initials in commemoration.

“I felt like [the colour] was something that was loud, which I like being, but they’re also the colours for lymphoma cancer. It’s nice that the Bandits’ colour is orange, too,” he smiled.

If you’re the winning bidder, you may notice more than just Tucker’s initials on the wrist and elbow guards. Last year Smith included the initials of two other friends he has lost – one to suicide and one to cancer.

“They’re people that I like to put on part of my gear to remember them and play for them, so when I look down it’s like they’re a part of me,” Smith said.

Smith knows how generous the lacrosse community is, especially those in Banditland.

“They support us like any professional fan base,” he said with admiration. “It’s crazy to see it, how we get treated like the Bills and the Sabres. Our fan attendance is outrageous. As far as donations go, they’re always top notch and supporting us. That’s why it’s important for me to take opportunities to give back to the city. I’m sure these auctions will go for a high amount; yes, it’s cool stuff, but they want to help support Tucker as well.”

Once the game is over, Dhane’s equipment will be added to the auction that is already live, featuring the jerseys and shorts that both the Bandits and Riptide will wear. The auction can be accessed via bandits.com, and more information on the Bandits’ Tucker Out Lymphoma night is here.