According to Ty Anderson, co-president of St. Stephen Bulldogs Football and Cheer, their youth sports program is about much more than football and cheerleading alone. It is about helping young inner-city boys and girls learn about healthy life choices, hard work, and achieving goals in life.
Run by volunteers, the program does everything it can to keep the experience affordable; however, football equipment, league fees, and other costs add up. Without additional support, the program would be out of reach for many and some still struggle to afford the cost, but the program has never turned anyone away because they could not pay. Coach Ty likes to say that their program is unlike any other in the league. They are a faith based program whose primary objective is not how many games and/or championships they win, but rather on providing a safe and fun environment with positive male and female role models. Examples of the things that make them different:
- No Child will be turned away because they cannot pay the fee or purchase
- Their coaches do not curse on the field nor smoke in front of the kids.
- The kids are treated with respect and never called out of their name.
- They hold a group prayer at the end every practice.
- On home games both teams gather on the 50-yard line and have a group prayer.
- Every child gets practice time and playing time.
- Weekly fun things like pizza parties, hotdogs and burgers etc. (for some of the
kids these the are the only hot meals they may get that evening)
Two years ago they were fortunate enough to absorb 37 new boys and girls from a team that was folding which caused their participation numbers to unexpectedly and dramatically increase. Thankfully, a connection was made with First Christian Church and through our Wholeness Grant Ministry, our church was able to fund the cost for these 37 boys and girls to participate in the league. The significance of that grant is that without it they would have had to do something they have never done before…turn kids away. As a result, their 5-7 year old Might Mite team that might not have existed went on to win their first championship! Their program is in its 6th year of existence with the participation numbers increasing every year. The challenge and need this year was to purchase new uniforms for the boys and cheerleaders to replace the 6 year-old ones that had seen better days. Through a second Wholeness Grant Ministry, First Christian Church was able to provide the funds to make that happen. Instead of having the player’s name on the back of their jersey St. Stephen decided to be different again by putting “Romans 8:28” there instead. That passage reads, "We know that all things work together for good[a] for those who love God, who are called according to God's purpose."
This year's grant is helping the league expand by adding a 12-14 year old division. According to coach Ty, this is a key age range for helping at risk students make positive life choices. In the video below , you can hear from Coach Ty, see the boys and girls in action, and get the full story of how the grant funds were used and the difference they made - it really is incredible!