Three young coaches took the day off of work yesterday to knock on doors across Philadelphia – from City Hall to the NovaCare Complex – to try to secure transportation for 90 kids from three winning Pop Warner football teams to attend their championship games in Florida this week.
By yesterday afternoon, Northwest Raiders Athletic Association assistant coaches Reuben Payne, 34; Cyril Woodland, 28; and Kenneth McCutchen, 32, said they were still short the cost of two buses, or about $17,000.
Payne said he didn’t know what he’d tell his players, who range in age from 9 to 15, if they couldn’t make it to the Pop Warner Super Bowl at Walt Disney World.
“It’d be devastating. As coaches, we’d feel like we failed them,” he said. “How do you tell 90 kids who worked hard all year that they can’t go and compete for the national championship because of money?”
Last year, the Northwest Raiders Midget team won their championship game at the Pop Warner Super Bowl. This year, those defending Midget champs again made it to the Super Bowl, but so did the Northwest Raiders’ Pee Wee and Jr. Midget teams.
In a way, the Northwest Raiders are victims of their own success. The association had raised enough to send one team to Florida, but sending three teams is a much greater cost than was expected – about $96,000 total – the coaches said.
“We did a lot of fundraising to offset the trip but it’s not enough with three teams,” Payne said. “Our back is against the wall because we don’t have the funds to get them down there.”
On Monday, Mayor Nutter gave $118,000 in grants from the Philly Champions Fund to about 20 teams and cheerleading squads from across the city who are headed to nationals, said mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald. Out of those funds, the Northwest Raiders received a grant of $10,000, McDonald said.
“Mayor Nutter has long been a supporter of youth sports and related activities, and the Champions Fund is one vehicle to show that support,” McDonald wrote, via email. “He has also asked Philadelphians to support youth activities by donating to the team organizations.”
While the Northwest Raiders coaches were grateful for the grant, they said they were still short the cost of two buses.
So, with just days until the buses would have to leave on Friday, the coaches spent yesterday knocking on the doors of state senators, City Council members, professional sports teams and local news organizations. They even planned to bring their players to the Sixers game last night to solicit donations.
The coaches said their dream is for a company to donate the buses or to cover the cost of the two remaining buses.
Stephanie Farr On Twitter: @FarFarrAway. This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, the Philadelphia Daily News.