Pop Warner football and cheer isn’t just about scoring touchdowns and sticking landings. The most important part of any youth sports program is helping kids make friends, build confidence, and connect with their community. Watching that happen is amazing, especially when the kids only get the chance to be there for a little while.
That’s certainly the case for players, cheerleaders, and coaches for the Colorado Springs Vikings, an organization that plays in the Pike’s Peak Pop Warner Regional League. The Colorado Springs area is home to four military bases, so a large percentage of their seventy-something kids, aged 5-12, come from military families. That means that not only are there new faces all the time, but frequently, the team loses familiar ones.
Being a part of a military family isn’t always easy on kids, from parents working atypical hours to frequent relocations or sudden deployments. So, having a team to play with, or cheer with, creates a built-in group of friends that can really help kids feel at home, even in a new place.
Vikings president and Mitey Mites coach Wesley Wright has seen plenty of faces come and go since he took over the program in 2015. He knows that he might lose any number of players or coaches over the course of a season, so he starts the season with a few extra to prevent a midseason scramble when one or more families get reassigned.
When it comes to fundraising for the team, the fluid nature of the roster can pose another challenge. Very few members of the team are actually from the area, so there isn’t a wide array of family members who live nearby when it comes time to ask for donations. Wesley said that for the Vikings, it was essential to reach out all over the country to raise money. They used Facebook to spread the word about the fundraiser, and it took off!
“We didn’t have a set goal when we started, because we hadn’t done this before. But we haven’t had success like this with a fundraiser. It exceeded all of our expectations. I can’t wait to do this again. There was just no limit to how much we can sell. It was amazing.”
Family, friends, and even former players from all over the country chipped in to help the Vikings. They sold about seven thousand dollars in the process, with 50% coming back to the organization. And almost everyone participated.
“We didn’t have any mandatory participation,” Wesley said. “We just encouraged families to sell and let them know that it would help with travel, parties, trophies. All of the end of the year stuff that people love… Once families saw how easy it was to share, it just got rolling.”
That money will help the Vikings do a lot more than party at the end of the year. It will help with uniforms and equipment, as well as defraying some of the travel costs that are currently handled by the participants’ families. They’re also hoping to establish a new home field in partnership with a local school, so they can have better seating, lights, and a true home-field advantage.
Not that they need it to be successful. The Colorado Springs Vikings are already the reigning Colorado State champions in the Mitey Mites division.