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

Eric Horng Image
Saturday, October 7, 2023
Youth football program has nowhere to play after shooting during game
The park district and Catholic high schools denied Hellcats Youth Football a place to play after a Chicago shooting happened during a game.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Hellcats' coaches said stadiums at two Catholic high schools, where they've played before, are now no longer available, and the Chicago Park District has also told them no.

The Hellcats have tenacity and talent.

But, after working hard all season, the privately-run youth football program now has nowhere to play its games.

"Really, just frustration," said Chicago Hellcats Youth Football President Vaughn Harris. "We're trying to do the right thing. We're keeping kids off the street. We just want to give them something positive to do, and it's a hurdle that we're having to climb over to do that."

The South Side program for some 300 players ages 5 to 14 said it has had one door closed after another after a shooting during one of its games last week injured a man in Mandrake Park.

The incident did not involve Hellcats parents or coaches, the team said. But now, future games at two private Catholic high schools in the city have been canceled.

"Whatever contract that we had with them, it was canceled until next year," said Chicago Hellcats Youth Football Vice President Ralph Colton. "We just want to know why. Why? We've done nothing wrong."

Coaches said they appealed to the Chicago Park District, but were also denied access to fields.

"Shame on you. Shame on you, park district. When you go to sleep at night, look at these kids' faces. Look at who you're affecting," said Chicago Hellcats Youth Football sponsor Early Walker.

In a statement, the Chicago Park District said it is "fully committed to delivering enriching programming to youth citywide."

"The private football league, named The Hellcats, does not have a standing permit or partnership agreement for use of the Mandrake Park facilities or the fields at any other Park District location, as is required of all football teams that are not part of the Park District's regular programming," the park district's statement continued.

The Archdiocese of Chicago referred ABC7's questions to the two schools that the Hellcats say denied them access to their stadiums, and messages left for those principals were not returned.