BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Bandits Forward Mark Steenhuis knows how to get a crowd pumped up when he’s out on the field. The fourteen year veteran is known for his electrifying style of play and his wild curly hair. But give him a mic and put him in front of hundreds of elementary school kids, and he is just as effective as he is with a lacrosse stick.
“We are the Buffalo Bandits we’re very excited to be in your school this morning. We are going to have a ton of fun,” Steenhuis recently said as he introduced himself and a couple of his teammates to a group of students in Silver Creek. He immediately had them going crazy for their mascot, Rax.
“I just thought if we could build something a little fun, more exciting, maybe a little bit in your face that they would really remember and hang onto,” Steenhuis said of the program, which he helped design last year.
The Bandits break into groups and visit several schools a week on their off days. By the time the season is over, they will have made stops at about one hundred Western New York schools. Steenhuis leads many of the presentations. Forward Dhane Smith sometimes gets as big of a kick out of his teammate as the kids do.
“He’s been unbelievable to his whole program. We wouldn’t be able to do it without him. It gets everybody crazy and it’s a good program to run,” Smith told News 4.
The students especially enjoyed when Steenhuis led them in the team’s cheers, including the popular “Buffalo what?” call, to which the children yelled, “Bandits!”
Steenhuis doesn’t have a lot of prior experience in public speaking, but he is a father of six. So he has a built in audience for testing out material.
“I have enough of them at home, so I can take a lot of lessons from home and translate over here with the kids,” he said. “You just try to find common ground with them I think.”
The presentations teach students about the basics of lacrosse, and share a message of anti-bullying.
“If it doesn’t feel good to you would it feel good to somebody else? No. Absolutely not,” he told the group. “So is that something we want to pass along to our friends, to our classmates?” The children answered, “Nooooo.”
Total crowd participation is expected, which News 4’s Lauren Hall found out when she got put on the spot to try to win everyone tickets to a game by taking a shot with Rax in net. It went in, and the kids went crazy, delighted to be going to a future game. That’s one way to keep building the growing Bandits fan base.
“Obviously yelling and screaming is a big part of this thing and gets them excited. We just want to get as excited as they can,” Steenhuis said. “It’s been awesome so far. It seems like all the schools have loved it. And we’re having a great time doing it.”