Randy Gross

Growing up watching sports with my parents, we always admired the championship athletes shown on TV, but I learned from an early age that real heroes are people found off-screen. I have been lucky enough to be around someone who embodies the word hero in every sense of the word: Randy Gross.

Randy spent several weeks at Ground Zero post 9/11 leading Canine Search Specialist teams in an effort to find survivors or remains after the terrorist attack. In 2022, Randy was diagnosed with a cancer that is tied to his exposure during that time, joining thousands who have received similar news and diagnoses since 2001. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “An estimated 400,000 people were exposed to toxic contaminants, risk of physical injury, and physically and emotionally stressful conditions in the days, weeks, and months following the attacks.” As stated by the American Association for Cancer Research, out of those 400,000 people, the number of responders, “is over 91,000, all of whom were exposed to the toxic mixture of dust, smoke, and chemicals arising from the wreckage.”

Randy was in the fire service for thirty years, and between 1995 and 2007, he and his partner canine, Dusty, were involved in several local emergencies and missing person searches.   In addition to the 2001 deployment to New York City, they also deployed to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Randy’s wife, Donna Gross, has also been in the disaster relief business, through her work with the Small Business Administration. When Tenacity families in California, Oregon, Utah, or Texas have experienced hardship due to wildfires, hurricanes, or floods, the Gross Family has been a significant support with their expertise and advice, along with what Randy and Donna’s teams have been able to do for the communities affected.

The positive impact this family has had on others has extended into their local community and to the sport of lacrosse, reaching hundreds of girls and young women through local youth programs in El Dorado Hills, California, at Oak Ridge High School, and through the non-profit Tenacity Project. Randy was a part of a group of people who first introduced girls to the game. Many of those women are now thriving college players and some of the best from the greater Sacramento area to have played the sport, including his own daughter, Brianne Gross. Bri played a season in the professional Athletes Unlimited league, she was a standout player at Vanderbilt University, and in 2019 she was an All-World Team selection for the U.S. Under-19 Team that brought home the Gold Medal in the World Championship games.

Randy was a long-time coach for the Tenacity Project.

Former team member, Kasey Braun (’18) says of Randy: “Some of my favorite memories from lacrosse in high school are because of my Coach, Randy Gross. He was a coach who cared about us and saw us not just as players, but as people. When my house burned down in a wildfire in 2019, Randy immediately drove down two hours to help my mom sort through the rubble. There wasn’t much to find but in that moment, he was the spark of hope that helped my mom come to terms with what had happened and gain some kind of closure. He told her ‘Just keep looking’ and remarkably, they were able to find some of our things still intact beneath that layer of ash.  That’s just the kind of man Randy is: a man, a coach, and a friend always ready to lend a helping hand.”

Ashley Laing, a standout Goalie at the University of California, Davis, and class of 2019 Oak Ridge High School/Tenacity Sacramento player, says “Randy played a pivotal role not only in the growth and success of lacrosse in the Greater Sacramento Area, but in establishing a sense of confidence and belief in young girls striving to be better people and athletes. He encompasses what it is to be an incredible human; a true hero, a great man and father, and idol to many. He consistently prepared us for ‘the moment of truth’–you will not rise to the level of expectation but fall to the level of your training.”

Lauren Schmidt coached with Randy, and says, “When I think of Randy, I think of positive energy. He just radiates, and within just a few minutes of being near him, you somehow feel empowered and recharged to take on the world. He is a good, loyal friend.”

Randy coached and mentored ENS, Abbigale Young, United States Navy, during her time on the Tenacity 2018 squad. In Abbi’s words, “Coach Randy has played a vital role in shaping the woman I am today. He was the second dad to many girls on the lacrosse team…constantly pushing us harder and giving us a role model outside of our own fathers. For me as someone in the military, seeing Randy’s story as a first responder for 9/11 and the heroism and mental toughness he embodies, I consistently strive to be more like him every day. Randy Gross is the epitome of leadership, heroism, human kindness, and character. I have so much love for him.”

Tom and Amy Souza, parents in the Tenacity family, say “Randy was the most influential coach our daughter, Maddie has ever had, in any sport, at any level. He embodied compassion, integrity, preparation, and grit, and did so in a playful and loving manner. He understood how to create confidence and brought out the very best in his players. It showed their love of the game and the success they each had on and off the field.”

Randy Gross is a symbol of an American hero and embodies the word tenacity, a quality that he passed on to everyone around him. Persistence, determination, and the ability to outlast hard things–this has been Randy on and off the field, in the firehouse, in his home, and in his faith. In the past 18 months, these qualities have helped Randy surpass several of the physical limits his diagnosis initially presented. To support his continued fight, and the entire Gross Family, please contribute what you can to his GoFundMe page.