The DC community raised nearly $60,000 to send the Junior Pee Wee football team to the Pop Warner nationals in Florida. And the team won.
By Jane Hess Collins
Someone call Hollywood! The legend of the Beacon House Junior Pee Wee “Falcons” football team winning the Pop Warner Superbowl national championship in Orlando, FL, has been all over the local news. But, like “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” some holiday stories just get better over time.
Samuel Payne had never flown on a plane, and he was a little nervous boarding the flight from Reagan National Airport to Orlando. Living in the Edgewood section of Washington, D.C., the sixth grader didn’t think much about cross-country flights.
That changed on November 27 when the Falcons, where Samuel plays as a wide receiver, won the Pop Warner regional championship in New Jersey. The national championship began a week later, on December 4. All the team and coaches needed was $50,000 to get there.
Problem was, they didn’t have it. None of it. Beacon House is a Catalogue for Philanthropy-approved nonprofit that offers educational, cultural, recreational and athletic programs to support at-risk youth and families. Like most nonprofits, they operated on a shoestring. And they had a week to make these kids’ dreams come true.
Time to move. Stacey Erd, the Beacon House executive director, contacted everyone she knew. The email, phone call and television campaign began. I felt a personal obligation to help send the team to Florida after a colleague sent me this email:
A Beacon House Pop Warner football team, comprised of at-risk, low income kids in Ward 5 in DC, won the Eastern Regional Championship of the Pop Warner Football League. They are now scheduled to go to Orlando, FL on Saturday, December 4th to play in the Pop Warner Football League Super Bowl…and they need $50,000 by the end of the week to pay for the trip (Pop Warner does not pay). The trip would include sending 35 youth and 10 volunteer coaches to stay at the Wide World of Sports at Disney in Orlando.
I resent to journalists and people who knew people, and waited. December 4 came and went. Then, on December 11, Erd send out this email blast:
We are the champions! Beacon House Falcons beat Liberty City 19-0. The Falcons played a strong, disciplined game!!!! We are very proud!!! Thank you all for helping us get there and for your support of Beacon House. I’ll remain in touch with some photos and a recap of the week. Thank you again! –Stacey
So what happened? According to Erd, the village of Washington, DC, stepped up through $6500 in individual donations, the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, John Thompson Foundation, Capital for Children, George Preston Marshall Foundation, Georgetown Hoyas and other organizations. The District’s Department of Parks and Recreation picked up a lot of the hotel and air fare costs. Donations poured in after the team appeared on TBD-TV’s News Talk with Bruce DePuyt.
And was all that effort worth it?
I asked Samuel what it was like to win the Junior Pee Wee Superbowl. “I started crying,” he admitted, “but I didn’t want anyone to see. But it was fun.” And what did he learn? “Never give up on your dreams,” he said.
His mom, Cinquetta Williams, agreed. Samuel sleeps and eats football, she said, and it’s motivated him to work on his weaker academic areas so he can be better prepared for college football. And he made the honor roll for the first time this year.
Yes, it was worth it.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Jane Hess Collins is a former Air Force colonel who helps and encourages people to give back through her writing, speaking, coaching and workshops. She also established game nights for at-risk families throughout the country. You can contact her at www.getoutandgiveback.com.