Local teams playing for Pop Warner football championships

December 6, 2013 (HARVEY, Ill.)

Friday, thanks to fundraising and the help of parents, mentors and local governments, a pair of those teams took off from Harvey, and not a moment too soon.

They're the Calumet City Thunderbolts and a group of bigger boys on the Harvey Colts.

Their bus was set to head down I-65 for the 24-hour drive to Orlando and the 2013 Pop Warner Super Bowl and Dance Cheer Off.

"The kids are very excited outside of the games, outside of the games, they just want to have a good time," said Harvey Colts coach Dimitrius Hardwick.

For many of these athletes, this is the first, and perhaps only, trip they get out of Chicago.

Pop Warner football is about scholarships as well as athletics.

"They don't just focus on the football aspects of it," said coach Fred Johnson. "It's the whole student aspect of it as well."

The Town of Harvey approved a $15,000 gift to the Colts to help defray costs, including transportation, lodging at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, plus feeding young football players.

"They learn responsibility, they learn leadership," said parent Jacqueline Randle-el. "Of course, we can teach things like that at home, but it helps when the neighborhood comes together."

For the Thunderbolts of Calumet City, the financial challenge of getting to this point has been a lesson in having faith the money would come, through Facebook fundraising, parental funds, a little debt and cash from the town's politicians and park district, the dreams of these youngsters get a chance to be realized.

"I've been getting calls since 6 a.m.," said Calumet City Thunderbolts coach Marcus Green.

The Calumet City Thunderbolts are still $4,000 in the hole and are soliciting donations online. The trip costs about $800 per person.

The Thunderbolts play Monday at noon. The Harvey Colts will play on Sunday at 10 a.m. central. Both teams are playing for the national championship in their age group.

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