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Nov, 2023

Highlighting Stars in the Community

Within the Pop Warner family, some of the most inspiring stories transcend the football field and cheer mats. The essence of community is deeply embedded in Pop Warner's roots, stemming from the desire to provide young individuals with a structured environment fostering both athletic engagement and character development Today, the organization's influence continues to reach far beyond the realm of sports, with Pop Warner teams and individuals actively contributing to meaningful change in their communities – from organizing park cleanups to raising funds for local causes.

The newly launched Community Star Award celebrates these outstanding efforts, recognizing teams that exemplify the spirit of service and community impact. In its first year, the award saw a range of remarkable stories of teams demonstrating dedication, creative solutions, and collaboration in their work to make a positive difference. While one award winner will be selected during national championship week in Orlando, the stories of some of our great nominees serve as an inspiration to us all.

Rise Up Like Eagles

The Odell Eagles demonstrated their unwavering commitment to the community through a series of initiatives, including a successful food drive that yielded an impressive 350 pounds of donations for a local non-profit; orchestrating a teddy bear and story book drive for local law enforcement agencies that work with children; conducting a fundraising raffle featuring three National Down Syndrome Society Barbie dolls from Mattel, with proceeds dedicated to supporting a teammate with Down Syndrome; and participating as a cohesive unit in the Greater Charlotte Buddy Walk. The team also join the fight against cancer this season, raising money, creating a chemo care kit and coordinating a dinner drive for one of their coaches who was battling Stage III breast cancer.

Hearts Filled With Grace

The Winter Park Tigers 13U team stepped up to help Grace Hanafin, the younger sister of one of the players. Grace is undergoing treatment for brain cancer. To show  support, the team has raised awareness and money to benefit the Arnold Palmer Hospital Pediatric Oncology Department, where Grace receives care. For one game this season, the Tigers, led by head coach Richard Hornsby, named Grace as honorary captain and recognized her and her medical team during halftime. Through a combination of t-shirt sales, ticket sales, and donations, the team successfully raised $12,500. This contribution ensures that hospitals can continue their vital work in aiding more children, like Grace, on their journey to recovery.

Returning the Favor… and Then Some

After the Satellite Beach 12U team made a run at a national championship in Orlando in 2021, the team claimed 2022 as its “SBS Gives Back” year to show appreciation for the local financial support it has received. This included teaming up with the city to plant sea oats on the beaches, collecting over 200 books to donate to local school libraries, providing home-made dinners to the local children’s foster home, packing 680 lunches for The Children’s Hunger Project, volunteering for a beach cleanup, and helping deliver flags as part of the local high school’s July 4th fundraiser.

Pulling Together for Neighbors in Need

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in September 2022, Cape Youth received numerous nominations for the commendable efforts of its football and cheer & dance athletes. These dedicated individuals played a pivotal role in the community's recovery by actively participating in cleanup activities and contributing to the distribution of food for those adversely affected. Notably, what set this initiative apart was the unwavering commitment of the youth, who, despite facing damage to their own homes, devoted multiple days to distributing essential items such as food, water, and supplies to assist those in need. Meanwhile, Cape Youth cheerleaders received nominations for their volunteer work at the Tim Tebow Foundation's Night to Shine event where they helped to create lifetime memories for individuals with special needs.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

The Milford Eagles 10U team has been showing unwavering support towards new teammate Aydin, who, despite his spina bifida and reliance on a wheelchair for mobility, has been a key member of the team. Aydin is seamlessly integrated into the team's dynamics, with his teammates ensuring his inclusion in everything from team huddles to post-game handshakes. In addition to their inclusive spirit, the team also coordinated a drive to collect school supplies and book bags.

A Pink Out in October

A staple of Pop Warner has long been the Pink Games to raise awareness to breast cancer research. Harrisburg Football went beyond the popular pink accessories and sported all pink uniforms along with hosting its first Pink-Out fundraiser day to raise money to support the Breast Health Center at local Atrium Health Cabarrus. In all, football players and cheerleaders raised over $1,500 to donate to the center. Their efforts and generosity caught the attention of the mayor, town council members and local media. The association hopes to make this an annual campaign.

Building Successful Teams On and Off the Field

Community service has been a staple for the New Hartford Spartans cheer teams year after year – from preparing goodie bags for frontline workers at the local hospital in 2021, to a project with the local humane society in 2022, to making baskets and bags with treats, snacks and gift cards for the local fire and police departments this season. At a recent home football game, the cheerleaders hosted members of the NHPD and NHFD and presented them with their generous gift.

Generosity Starts With Recognizing a Need

Upon recognizing the need for pantry items in their community, the 13U Lake Brantley football team from Florida ignited a ripple effect of positive change. Taking the lead, they filled one school's pantry, inspiring other teams within the association to follow suit, ultimately stocking two additional schools in the area. Meanwhile up north, the Merrimack Hawks from New Hampshire played their part by also contributing essential food items, organizing a cupboard donation drive that successfully supplied over 3,000 snack items to six area schools.

Good All the Way Around

There were several other teams nominated for the Community Star Award who demonstrated outstanding commitment to community and helping others. The Belmont Red Raiders made quick friends with a teammate who has experienced a challenging upbringing, playing an integral part in helping their new teammate find positivity and friendship…The Colonie Pop Warner tiny mites team organized a School Supply Drive for children and schools in need in their local district, collecting and donating more than 1,000 items…The Deer Valley Wolfpack spent time team bonding by helping a local farmer off load a tractor of hay onto his trailer for transport to the farm…For over 60 years the San Francisco Police Athletic League has remained committed to its mission as the police department-led group teaches healthy life choices, discipline, and responsibility, while strengthening its communities and neighborhoods…Cheerleaders with the Saratoga Blue Streaks spent their off time volunteering in a local nursing home…The Spanish Springs Cougars mitey mite cheerleaders and 10U football players teamed up to make “blessing bags” for the homeless…A player on the Spillionairs 13U team has a younger brother diagnosed with brain cancer, so the team live streamed its games at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado.

Shout Outs

There were additional nominations for individuals, including coaches and administrators. While this award is intended to recognize teams, we are always appreciative and grateful of the good work our volunteers do with their programs and in the communities. Thank you!


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