Mike Francia leads men’s lacrosse at Relay For Life

James Coller/Daily
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By Minh Doan, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 15, 2014

Just two hours after the Michigan men’s lacrosse team returned to Ann Arbor after falling to rival Ohio State, it found itself on another field.

But on this field, there would be no losing.

“We had a quick turnaround after our game, and we all came out to support,” said junior attacker Mike Francia.

The Wolverines participated in the MRelay event at Palmer Field on Saturday to honor those who had passed away from cancer, as well as cancer survivors.

Relay For Life, an event held by the American Cancer Society consists of a 24-hour walk to raise money for cancer research, and includes performances and ceremonies.

But for Michigan, Relay For Life was a chance to honor two of their own: Francia and nine-year-old Miles Root.

When Francia was nine, he was told news that no one wants to hear. He had cancer — specifically, Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

For two years, Francia went through treatment for his cancer while continuing to play lacrosse whenever he felt healthy enough.

But, if there was one thing that he looked forward to every year, it was the Relay For Life event held in his hometown of Wilton, Conn. The event was not only a chance to raise money for the very disease that hurt him, but it was also a chance to meet other people in his same position.

And when the team decided to form a Relay For Life team, it was only right for Francia to be the captain.

“My goal is to involve many people as possible, and I started with my own team,” Francia said.

Michigan combined with the women’s lacrosse team to form one of the largest teams at MRelay and has raised more than $5,000 for the event.

“This is our first year doing fundraising,” Francia said. “But I think next year, we can do even better. I was happy that everyone contributed — it was a great experience.”

While the money donations were important to the team, they were there to honor their own, which included Root.

Earlier this year, the team adopted Root through the Friends of Jacklyn, which places children with pediatric brain tumors on sports teams near their location.

Root suffered from a brain tumor, but when he had surgery to kill the tumor, he ran into another problem. Root suffered from posterior fossa syndrome, which prevented him from speaking or moving the right side of his body. Originally, Root had beaten the syndrome and was cancer free for four months, but he relapsed and was put into hospice early last year.

And during the Wolverines’ Spring Break trip, they received the bad news that Root had passed away. So it was only right that they did something to honor him, and Relay For Life was the perfect opportunity.

“We have a special connection with Miles,” Francia said. “With his passing recently, it’s been an emotional time and we’re definitely out here reeling for Miles. The support of everyone out here is great to see.”

Returning to Ann Arbor after the loss, the Wolverines’ minds were all over the place. But Relay For Life brought them back together. And after the emotional year they’ve been through with Root, it wasn’t hard to get the team to come.