Undefeated youth Chicago football team trying to raise money to travel to national championship

Coaches want to show players there's more to world than Chicago violence; gunshots rang out during Columbus Park interview

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Thursday, November 9, 2023
W. Side football team trying to raise money for national championship
The Chicago Chargers Next Level Athletics 14U football team is trying to raise money to go to the Pop Warner League National Championship.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A youth football team from Chicago's West Side has a chance to play in the national championship.

But, the team needs money to get to Orlando.

"If we don't come up with the money, we won't be able to go," said Michael Willis, president of the Chicago Chargers Youth Foundation.

But, coaches say, it's an opportunity these young men can't afford to miss.

"A lot of these guys have never flew, ain't never been out of town before so this is a trip of a lifetime," Willis said.

The undefeated Next Level Athletics 14U football team already has a state and regional championship under their belt.

Now, they have their eyes set on the national title, with an opportunity to play in the Pop Warner Championship in Orlando, Florida in December.

RELATED: Chicago Hellcats Youth Football has nowhere to play after shooting during game at Mandrake Park

"We the only 14U team in MidAmerica Pop Warner that got the bid to go. It's the 'big dance.' It's something they all thrive for, something they signed up for the program to get to," Willis said.

The team, part of the Chicago Chargers Youth Foundation, is trying to raise $30,000 to send the team to Florida.

As Willis spoke to ABC7 Chicago in Columbus Park Wednesday night, gunshots rang out in the distance.

"It'd be really a shame if our kids couldn't go. We just calling all of Chicago that we live in a neighborhood full of, you know, poverty and gun violence and stuff like that," Willis said.

The incident underscored the mission this organization sets out to accomplish for youth, providing them a glimpse of life off the streets.

"We're an inner-city program; a lot of our kids don't get the same opportunities most kids around the world does get. So, it's very important for them to see this side of life," Coach Avantay McClinton said.

The bonds of brotherhood are shown on the gridiron and beyond.

"It's motivating me to put more work into the classroom, on and off the field. It's making me want to go harder in life," running back Demarus Pitts said.

Visit GoFundMe.com for more information.

"We learn so much from these kids day to day, the struggle, the things that go on, on and off the field, and it's very important to give these kids this experience," Coach Corey Fardon said.