New Canaan's Cameron Buzzeo is passionate about field hockey. She's also passionate about increasing awareness of Lyme disease.

Buzzeo will bring her two passions together later this month when New Canaan Youth Field Hockey (NCYFH) holds its first annual Daughters vs. Fathers field hockey game on Sunday, Sept. 21, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Dunning Stadium.

The "Sticks Against Ticks" hockey event, spearheaded by Buzzeo, is designed to raise Lyme disease awareness and to help Lyme Research Alliance (LRA) fund cutting-edge research by top scientists at major universities.

About 130 fifth to eighth-grade girls are registered in the field hockey program and plans call for New Canaan High School (NCHS) athletes to coach the dads before the game.

"We're trying to make this a lighthearted family event," said Buzzeo, a NCYFH board member. "We plan to have a raffle, a bake sale, silent auction, and give out fun prizes such as one for the funniest dad in a field hockey outfit."

But there's also a serious aspect to the event.

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"Lyme disease is a major problem in our beautiful community, but too many people are unaware of the risks they face," says Buzzeo, 34, the mother of three-year-old twins and a four-month-old. "People think you only get Lyme if you go into the woods, so they let their kids run around in leaf piles where infected ticks can be found. Or they think they'll see a bullseye rash to alert them they've been bitten. But often that isn't the case."

Buzzeo's drive to raise awareness of Lyme in New Canaan stems from her own experiences with the illness. She learned first-hand that Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed and mistreated. "I don't want anyone to go through what I did," she said. "That's why we need more information and more awareness."

Although she suspects she was first infected as a child, Buzzeo says that she was plagued with migraines, joint pains and fatigue while attending NCHS. The migraines grew so intense that even when she served as captain of the school's 1997-1998 championship field hockey team, sometimes it was tough for her to play. She sought medical help, but doctors dismissed her complaints, telling her they were typical of a hard-driving athlete.

She felt progressively worse after she entered Pennsylvania's Bucknell University in fall 1999 to play field hockey.

"My knees gave out, I suffered from extreme fatigue and a variety of cognitive problems such as an inability to mentally focus," she said. Yet doctors still could not tell her what was wrong. At one point, she made the "heartbreaking" decision to stop playing field hockey and even debated leaving school.

"I didn't know what to do," she says. "I was begging for someone to diagnose me."

Finally a friend suggested that she might have Lyme disease. Buzzeo had been tested before, but the results came back negative. However she had never had a Western blot blood test to confirm the negative diagnosis. It was only then that she learned she had Lyme and underwent antibiotic treatment.

"I wish I could say that everything was good from then on, but there were a lot of ups and downs," says Buzzeo. "I got better, but then a few years later relapsed with seizures and other problems. I once got lost in an aisle at Gristedes. I was overwhelmed and couldn't remember how long I had been there."

She went to a Lyme-literate physician in New York, underwent three months of IV treatments, and has "been on an even keel" for several years, she says.

Buzzeo, whose husband, Chip, is the head boys lacrosse at NCHS, says she hopes that dads who've never played field hockey will sign up for the event.

"We applaud Cameron's initiative in setting up this independent fundraiser," said Peter Wild, LRA's executive director. "These community initiatives are an important component of LRA's success as an organization."

This is "an open event for the community" and there is no fee to attend or play. Tee-shirts will be sold and donations to support Lyme research will be welcomed. For further information, go to www.newcanaanyouthfieldhockey.com.