A New Battle Begins
Please Help Reills In The Biggest Game of His Life
Jim “Reills” Reilly was diagnosed with ALS in August 2020 at the age of 54. Reills’ story focuses on fund raising efforts for his long-term care, outreach and fundraising for ALS, and reaching back to the lacrosse community to tell a classic New England lacrosse story. Here is the Rally With Reills’ story.
The Reills Story
It wasn’t until after his ALS diagnosis, sitting in the neurologist’s office, that Jimmy remembered the weak shot he took the last time he played lacrosse. Now he could see it clearly – the foreboding signal his body sent that he dismissed as an anomaly. It was at 8,000 feet, after all, in Vail, CO. He was playing with his Middlebury College alumni team and the shot was routine – a dodging midfielder drew the slide and passed the ball to Jimmy for a clear shot from 10 yards out. As the goalie slid across the crease Jimmy saw an opening up high on the backside pipe. Like he had done hundreds of times before, he torqued his body, extended his arms…and ripped the shot.
Only this time the goalie caught it. Easily. And in the blink of an eye the action shifted in the opposite direction. Nobody even noticed that what had transpired was unusual – it was a common play with the goalie making a save and looking up field to clear the ball. But Jimmy noticed. Now, nine months later, sitting in a doctor’s office in Missoula, MT, he recalled the play because at the time he had thought, “Where did that weak shot come from?”
Now he knew. The doctor was explaining how amyotrophic lateral sclerosis breaks down nerve cells and reduces functionality in the muscles they supply. Jimmy could hear the words, but his mind was wandering back in time, retracing the last nine months. From hiding the fact that he was having trouble buttoning his shirts, to not having enough hand strength to cut his own fingernails. He developed workarounds and hoped the weakness would pass, but he also started worrying that something was wrong.
It wasn’t until a March golf outing when the club flew out of his hands on his first swing that he knew he could no longer hide whatever was happening. He grabbed his clubs and drove straight home to tell Catherine, his college sweetheart and beloved wife of 24 years, about everything he was experiencing. Several weeks later they found themselves in a neurologist’s office, listening to the diagnosis and pathology of ALS.
This was the beginning of a new era for Jimmy Reilly. While ALS affects each person differently and can move quickly or last several years, the reality is that people with ALS lose their ability to walk, talk, eat, and eventually breathe. There is no cure.
The Early Years
As the youngest of seven children, Jimmy had a lacrosse stick in his hand as soon as he could walk. By the age of four he was playing wall ball with his older brother, Chuck. A gifted athlete, Jimmy excelled at multiple sports growing up in Westford, MA. He was a lacrosse prodigy, however, and anyone who ever watched Jimmy play knew that they witnessed poetry in motion. Righty, lefty, overhand/ underhand/ sidearm...whatever the defense gave him (or he created) he took to the house with a smile and a cackle that reflected his contagious love for the game. He was just as adept at finding the open man as he was at burying the shot – with Jimmy on the field you had to be ready for anything and bring your best every time. All his teammates, at every level, were elevated by his mastery of the game and unselfish commitment to the team.
Jimmy brought his three years of athletics at The Fenn School four miles down the road to Middlesex. A Co-Captain of three teams (lacrosse, football, and basketball), Jimmy contributed to ISL Lacrosse Championships in 1983 and 1985 earning All American recognition his senior year. Jimmy played in the annual New England Senior East/West All Star Game and was honorary Captain. Jimmy was inducted into the Middlesex School Hall of Fame in 2004.
Reills made an immediate impact as a freshman midfielder at Middlebury under Coach Jim Grube. A four-year starter, Middlebury was NESCAC Champions in 1986 and 1988. Reills was recognized as All American his junior year and elected Co-Captain in 1989. While at Middlebury, Jim met his future wife, Catherine Eells, their Freshman year.
In 1988 Jimmy was a junior midfielder on one of the best college lacrosse teams in the country. The team boasted seven outstanding midfielders who could each score at any moment, and a lethal attack group. No opposing team had enough athletes to defend the entire Middlebury offense, yet each team had to decide who to try to stop – and Jimmy never took more than two steps on the field without the other team’s best defensive midfielder shadowing him. Despite all the attention from opposing teams and a well-balanced offense that spread the ball around, Jimmy was the go-to guy when it mattered most – and earned All-American honors that year. But you wouldn’t know that by his demeanor in the locker room or on the field, because the most important thing to Jimmy was having fun playing the game with friends.
What Really Matters - A Few words from Jimmy’s Lacrosse Coach, Jim Grube
The greatest reward a coach can experience comes from his players. What really matters has nothing to do with championships, awards or honors. The bond that a coach has with his players begins the day they come to visit as a recruit, their first practice as a freshman, the last game of the last season and, yes, the abiding friendships that often last a lifetime.
My relationship with Jimmy Reilly began well before he came to Middlebury College. His prep school lacrosse coach, Tom O’Neil was always encouraging his players to come to Middlebury. But Reills was different. Tom’s advocacy went well beyond his talents as a midfielder. Tom O’Neil loved the game of lacrosse and was a gifted coach who recognized talent, but as Tom made it clear to me, Jim Reilly is special.
Lacrosse demands ambidextrous skills, fluidity, strength, speed and a command of the field. The complete player excels not only in scoring goals, but in ground ball play and defense. The element, though, that defines excellence goes beyond skills. The hard to define quality of selflessness, team play and humility is so important. Added to all this is the innate love of the game. Jim Reilly lives the game of lacrosse.
In twenty some years of coaching lacrosse Reills stands alone as the consummate player. All who played with him or against him recognized this stature.
Living in Boston, Jim played for the Brine Lacrosse Club, a member of the United States Club Lacrosse Association with an annual National Championship at stake, Jim played four years for Brine with his brother, Chuck, Hobart 1978, before moving to Connecticut. He joined Octagon in Stamford, a sports marketing and event firm, and served as Tournament Director for multiple PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour professional events. Jim has played for the Middlebury Alumni teams in six Vail tournaments.
A move by the Reilly family to Missoula, Montana in 2004 put Jim on a path to being an avid outdoorsman. Hunting, fishing, skiing, golfing, and hiking instilled a love for the outdoor lifestyle to their three children, Sam, Ben, and Hannah. Turning his love of the Montana outdoors into a profession, Jim is now the General Manager of the Complete Fly Fisher Lodge in Wise River, Montana.
How You Can Help In This Fight
A Jimmy Reilly family trust has been set up to collect donations to help Jimmy and Catherine in the immediate future. A GoFundMe effort launched on March 12, 2021 (Jimmy’s birthday), and additional efforts are underway to identify sustained commitments over several years.
With this disease, there are so many expenses that are not covered by insurance. Prescription drug costs, purchase or rental of all kinds of medical equipment including motorized wheelchair, handicapped accessible vehicle, and ventilators to name a few. Home renovations and an in-home caregiver are also very expensive.
With your support, we can help soften the Reilly Family burden of medical treatments, equipment and caregiving expenses that are not covered by insurance, as well as keep Jim roaming the prairies and floating down the Big Hole River for as long as possible. Your contribution to these causes, no matter how large or small, will mean the world to everyone who loves the man, son, father, husband, brother, uncle, cousin, teammate, and true friend.
The Rally With Reills Team
Legends Last Forever
This capsule collection in collaboration with Relax Lacrosse is part of the fundraising efforts, with proceeds benefiting “Rally With Reills’” as well as other ALS research initiatives. The special edition designs shown here draw from Jim Reilly’s lacrosse career, old school lacrosse gear from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, and the athletic spirit of the game we all love.
Premium lacrosse shorts just like the ones from back in the day, produced at a historic factory on the East Coast that made the originals! They're built tough with rugged construction and high-quality mesh. These throwback vintage shorts are perfect for any activity! This special edition for Rally With Reills’ is offered in Middlebury blue and Middlesex red, with a printed RWR pennant seal logo.
These classic athletic T’s are made in USA, 100% cotton, and come in classic heather gray. A “Rally With Reills’” varsity logo is printed on front and “Legends Last Forever” graphic on back.
These Classic Crew socks are made in USA and come in Middlesex red with white “Rally With Reills” knit into achilles zone on sock.
New Old Stock hats with Tags and featuring vintage game snapback. Blue brim with Red RWR
embroidery and/or Red brim with Blue RWR embroidery. Limited stock.
Important ALS Organizations
There are a number of incredible oragnizations involved in the fight against ALS. Some are focused on fundraising, some on patient advocacy, and some on the pursuit of a cure. Each of these groups are important and worthy of support:
The largest, national non-profit organization dedicated to ALS by providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers.
Patient-led community that provides critical support and resources to patients, caregivers and loved ones.
Team Gleason has provided over $10 million in adventure, technology, equipment, and care services to over 15,000 people living with ALS and countless others through advocacy, support and ultimately bringing an end to the disease.
4880 Jaiden Lane, Missoula, MT 59803