It is the middle of December. While most other football teams called it a season weeks ago, the Chicago Chargers Youth Football and Cheer League members are out practicing for one more game - the championship, this weekend in New Orleans. The game is important, but the trip is a big deal.
"This is the only place they've been, is Chicago... some of the kids have never even been off their block," said league president Michael Willis.
Many of these kids come from inner city, single-parent homes. Money is tight, and gangs and drugs are all around. Football is giving them a place to go and a way to stay clear of the negative influences.
"This gives them a chance to say no, you don't have to do that - you're going to football practice - you're not going to go hang on the corner," said mother Letticia Flores Poole.
Pac-Man Jones, 9, has been looking forward to going to New Orleans all season, hoping for his first trip outside the city. His junior midget team is undefeated and won the league Super Bowl trophy a few weeks ago.
"We pushed 'em, pushed 'em so hard looking forward to this trip," said mother Reeshema Jones. "To get 'em to this point and say it's all over is really a setback for the kids, and we really don't want to let our kids down like that."
That's the problem. They have buses booked for the 14-hour round trip, but they are still short on funds to pay for all the players to make the trip. They are hoping the holiday spirit will somehow come through to help.
"This is a huge Christmas present for them - this would just make Christmas for them," said Jones.
Even though they are still trying to figure out how to pay for it, the teams plan to leave early Friday morning for the drive to New Orleans. They plan to spend three days there before returning with a wealth of experience and, they hope, another trophy.
The league lists its contact information on its website:Click here to view the contact information on the league website