By Carmen M. Woodson-Wray, Gary Crusader
The 72 members of the American Legion Post 270 are working diligently to make sure that young people have the necessary equipment, insurance and money needed at registration time to play football this coming season. They are doing this by raising money to cover those expenses.
The American Legions, headed by Col. Richard Ligon, Post Commander recently held a breakfast fundraiser to help the children manage the $300 needed for helmets, pants, game jerseys, shoulder pads, shoes, as well as registration fees to participate in the Gary Steelers Pop Warner Football Team.
The children range in ages of 5 to 14 years. There are 6 different team brackets in addition to cheerleaders for each team. The teams are Tiny Mights for kids 5 to 6; Jr. Mighty Mights for kids 7 to 8; Mighty Mights for kids 8 to 9; Jr. Pee Wees for kids 10 years old; Pee Wees for kids ages 11 to 12; Jr. Varsity for kids 13 years and Varsity for kids 14 and 15.
Each parent of a child wishing to be a part of a team is responsible for at least $125 of the money needed, but most of the parents cannot afford the $300. Ligon said, “We are cheap, but in other areas the people can pay the fees. The American Legion Post came up with the idea of the breakfast fundraiser to reduce the cost for the parents. We are trying to help any child that wants to play be able to play.”
The American Legions adopted the Gary Steelers Football Team in March of this year. According to Col. Ligon at least 25 percent of the families of children who want to play cannot afford to pay the registration fees.
He said, “A lot of kids don’t play because their families can’t afford it. If a child wants to play, we want to have a cushion available if needed. It is also necessary that the child’s parent help the team by volunteering during games, but not necessarily games that their child is playing in. They volunteer by working the concession stands or helping members of the teams in some other way.”
The season will begin the first Monday in August. Registration will be held every day this week and next week from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Lew Wallace High School Football Field. Home games will be played at Lew Wallace.
Ligon said the Gary teams went to Pop Warner Super Bowls for many years and it was not cheap for all of the teams to make the trips. “It costs about $35,000 to take those teams to the Pop Warner Nationals at the Wide Worlds of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida back then,” he said.
Col. Ligon said that this program really brings youth together. “They work real good together and although they live all over the city they all get along. This is what has been happening for the last 40 years. These kids become friends for life because this breaks down the territorial barriers,” he said.