Little more than a year ago, on July 13, 2018, Archer Amorosi, 16, of Chanhassen, was killed during a confrontation with Carver County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

Archer attended Minnetonka High School, where he played varsity lacrosse and football. According to his father, Archer had struggled for years with mental health issues.

Since Archer’s death, Don Amorosi has turned his grief into advocacy for increased mental health awareness. He wants to bring mental health issues and discussions into the light and destigmatize them.

On Saturday, Aug. 24, the Northern Lights Lacrosse Festival takes place in Badger Park, Shorewood.

While the event isn’t named for him, it’s being promoted as a way of healing and remembering Archer, a talented lacrosse athlete.

The inaugural event runs 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., featuring lacrosse clinics for boys and girls in the morning, followed by structured lacrosse games every hour. Participants from youth, high school and club lacrosse groups are invited.

The idea for the festival came from one of Archer’s high school lacrosse coaches, Amorosi said. The coach, who comes from the East Coast, was talking to one of Archer’s friends when the idea of an all-day lacrosse festival came up.

“Back east, they have 24-hour (lacrosse) festivals raising money for projects like Wounded Warriors,” Amorosi said. “They thought that Archer’s tragedy could be turned into something positive.”

Amorosi is a member of the Northern Lights Lacrosse Festival steering committee, composed of both teens and adults. The hope is that the festival continues in the future, “that we do it this year, next year, and then pass the torch on in coming years,” he said.

“While the festival is in honor of Archer, he’s not the focus,” Amorosi said. “That’s why the festival isn’t in his name. But, all the proceeds will go to Archer’s Aim, a nonprofit that Amorosi established this past year. According to its website, “Archer’s Aim represents hope for our youth who struggle, but can’t find a way to talk about their mental health.”

“His name is just a vehicle,” Amorosi said. “Our mission is to fund three areas of interest: One, to heal and have fun celebrating lacrosse. Two, to improve awareness of mental health with a focus on teens. Three, to raise money that will be divided three ways: into scholarships for students diagnosed with mental health issues; providing coaches mental health awareness training; and ... third to fund local community-based initiatives.

“If someone needs money for a program, for example if Tonka Cares wants funds to help with substance abuse, they can apply to Archer’s Aim.”

LACROSSE ALL DAY

The day begins at 9 a.m. with lacrosse clinic sessions for boys and for girls, ages 8-14. Each clinic concludes with a youth boys game and youth girls game, open to all ages. Amorosi said that among the guests will be State Rep. Kelly Morrison, who will drop the lacrosse ball at the first game.

In addition to playing and watching lacrosse, participants and spectators will be able to enjoy music, food and prizes, even a dunk tank. And most importantly, there will be professionally led mental health educators on hand to foster community discussion and acceptance of mental health issues.

“In this setting where people feel comfortable and more approachable,” Amorosi said, “we’ll have HealthPartners, Melrose Center (for eating disorders) and the NAMI executive director here.”

In the event flier, Amorosi provided additional background on the nonprofit and Archer: “Archer’s Aim, d.b.a. ‘Northern Lights Lacrosse Festival — Facing Off of Teen Mental Health’ is an inaugural sporting event intended to honor this young man while raising awareness about mental health in a positive, celebratory setting.”

“Archer was a beautiful teenager who struggled with his mental health. He was taken from us far too early. Archer was caring, vibrant and energetic ... Archer’s Aim represents hope for our youth who struggle with their mental health but can’t find a way to talk about it. It represents understanding and acceptance for those in need and peace for those who have lost a close friend or family member.”

ADVOCACY

Amorosi has spent the past year speaking to public entities like city councils, school boards and county boards about the need to support more mental health initiatives in public policy. He’s also met with state legislators, and testified on funding for mental health and a hotline for the Senate and House.

“They’re done for this year, but I’ll start working again on it next year.”

Amorosi also said he’ll be participating in the 16-member officer-involved shooting working group co-chaired by Minnesota State Attorney General Keith Ellison and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington.

He’s also putting more focus on the Minnetonka school system.

“I’m the Colin Kaepernick, bucking the system,” Amorosi said. “I’ve met with school board members, putting together a working group to work on mental health. For now the lacrosse event has kept me busy. But I’ll be back on the beat after August. I’ll be back at city council and the county commissioners after taking a break. Right now, I’m having fun with something positive.”

Reporter

Unsie Zuege is an award-winning multimedia journalist, who enjoys community journalism, bibimbop, Netflix, Trivia Mafia and snuggling tiny dogs, not necessarily in that order.

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