The Tacolcy Red Raiders are days away from possibly winning a national championship.
The junior pee-wee league defeated team after team this season to get to this moment-- a first in its 30-year history,.
Pop Warner will host junior football teams from across the country in Orlando starting on Monday, but if the Red Raiders don’t come up with cash, they won’t be able to attend.
“I will be really disappointed if we can’t go because we worked so hard,” said 11-year old cornerback Diedrick Dansby.
Coaches for the team said if they can’t come up with $18,000 by Friday, they won’t be able to afford lodging, meals and transportation for the 27 players to play in Orlando for a week.
Their first game is scheduled for Tuesday.
“This is our first time, it would be a shame not to be able to make history because we didn’t have the funds,” said Cedric Hooper who is one of six coaches for the team.
Hooper said the Red Raiders exhausted their budget traveling to regional games to make it to nationals. Near the end of November, when it was certain the team would make it to nationals, parents were crunched to fundraise.
“Once we realized we were going to make it to nationals we started sending out sponsorship letters to people in the community and asking for donations,” Hooper said.
The result: $2,300 in cash. Far less than what they need.
The team’s players, most of whom live in Liberty City, have been practicing since the summer.
When thieves stole the copper wiring from the light posts at their home park, Athalie Range Park, leaving them in the dark, they continued their drills blocks away at another park.
“They never gave up, they kept fighting to get to where they are now,” said Karen Forte, Diedrick’s mother. “My son told me he’s willing to give up Christmas to go on this trip.”
Forte along with some of the other parents are collecting money from their friends and family members who can give, but many of the parents don’t have any extra cash to donate.
“Many of our boys are inner city kids who come from single family households. Some live in the projects. Being able to travel to Orlando for some of these kids is a dream they just can’t afford,” Cooper said.
Parents and coaches are hopeful that sponsorship packages sent to businesses and county and city officials will be fulfilled soon. The team negotiated with a charter bus and hotel that are willing to take a final payment at the end of nationals on Dec. 7th.
Cooper said he spent much of Wednesday talking to business owners and following up on sponsorship letters that have gone unanswered.
Diedrick, the 11-year old player, said he and his team are not giving up and are prepared to come home champions.
“Our team works very good with each other,” he said. “ I know we can win nationals if we make it because we play good football.
To donate to the Tacolcy Red Raiders call Isheka Harrison, 305-751-1295 ext. 139 or email@example.com