A Liberty City peewee football team made it to the national championships in Orlando and on Tuesday won their second game, setting the stage for a possible national title.
The TACOLCY Red Raiders almost had to pass on a chance to play in the Pop Warner Super Bowl because they could not afford the weeklong trip. Pop Warner is the oldest and largest national youth football program in the world.
But before the team’s coaches could tell the 27 players, 10- and 11-year-olds, that their stellar season would end without a chance to compete nationally, the football team’s staff appealed to the media.
The junior peewee league’s story aired on local television and appeared in print media, including The Miami Herald. Within a day, the league surpassed its $18,000 goal and calls are still coming in, said Isheka Harrison, a spokesperson for the Advisory Committee of Liberty City Youth. In all, the team raised more than $19,000.
Donors include Miami-Dade County Commissioner Francis Suarez who gave $2,000, and Ernesto Perez, president of Dade Medical College, who presented the team with an $11,800 check.
“It is incumbent on these institutions within the community to support, help and nurture our future leaders,” Perez said in a statement. “Dade Medical College prides itself on being inclusive and community-driven.”
The money will pay for travel, lodging and food for the youth football players and their six coaches. Because the team surpassed its financial goals, the boys get an extra perk: a day at Disney World.
The Red Raiders left for Orlando Friday in the hopes of bringing home a national championship. On Tuesday morning, they were a step closer. The team won their second Super Bowl game in overtime scoring 18-12 against the Philadelphia Enon Eagles.
The Red Raiders have one more game to play on Friday for the national title, which would be a first in the team’s 30-year history.
Cedric Hooper, the team’s head coach, said he was grateful for the donations.
“I believe in miracles. Word can’t express how thankful I am right now,” he said.
A welcome reception is in the works upon the team’s return to Miami later this week.
“No matter what happens, we hope to welcome them home with a big bang,” Harrison said. “They deserve it.”