GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- There was a proper send-off Wednesday for two youth sports teams that are bringing a whole lot of hope to Gary, Indiana.
The last Little League left in Gary, Indiana is sending two teams to the state tournament this weekend: a senior all-star baseball team of 14 to 16-year-olds & a softball team, too. A win in this tournament would send the boys off to the Little League World Series.
"Our boys are excited, the parents are excited," said Yolanda Williams, parent of Jaden Williams #7. "This is a historical event for us and we are just ready to go represent Gary, Indiana."
There were some hurdles to get to this point. The teams needed help with travel expenses to make it to the tournament. So, the community pitched in, donating nearly $10,000.
"For the city of Gary, it means yet another example of showing the character of the individuals that live here," Mayor Jerome Prince said. "These kids worked really, really hard."
"It's a really great experience, I've actually personally never experienced this and it just feels so good to know I have my community behind me," softball player Caitlyn Walker said.
These teens have played the sport their entire lives with the dream of playing in the state tournament. And the moment is even more special because of what Gary and the rest of the country have battled in the last year and a half- surviving a pandemic and fighting for social justice.
"It means a lot," said utility player Kyle Ezell. "For us to be a predominantly African American team, it shines a lot of light on different things that have been going on."
Now, these boys and girls get a weekend trip to lift up Gary and shine some light on their hometown.
The softball team will head out later this week, but the boys' team is now on its way to Greenwood with its first game of the tournament scheduled Thursday. Four wins gets them to the Little League World Series.
Gary's last Little League sends 2 teams to state championship