Atheletes to Champions is pleased to be able to assist Harry Williams (seen in picture demonstrating proper throwing technique) and others as they work to revive Jackonville’s Kooker Park back into the thriving center of the community it once was. They have cleaned and made repairs to the park, and have started several leagues. Their hope is to one day have a permanent facility to continue to be able to continue their ministry with classrooms, mentoring, offices and storage.
In the meantime, Athletes to Champions has been helping by coordinating a football clinic with the football program at a local high school, and arranging the donation of football equipment.
“Pastor hits home run in effort to revive Northside park” Read article and view Video
Kooker Park improving, but help still needed
The football teams include 80 at-risk children practicing at the Northside park.
By Hays Carlyon
The revitalization of Henry L. Brown-Kooker Park, spearheaded by the Rev. Harry Williams, continues to progress.
The Northside park on 21st Street, long dormant before Williams’ efforts, is fielding three Pop Warner football teams consisting of 80 at-risk children. The kids are coached three nights a week and play games on Saturday. Tutors from Edward Waters College have also helped the children in the classroom.
“This is changing lives,” said Cathy Parker, who championed an effort two years ago to raise money to purchase an artificial turf field for the football team in Barrow, Alaska, in a high school suffering from a high dropout rate. ”We have so many needs here in Jacksonville. This revival of Kooker Park is a great opportunity with an immediate payoff. This is helping kids.”
Parker is lending her efforts to help furnish the teams with proper equipment. Her group, Athletes to Champions, is trying to raise $8,000 to pay off the cost of the uniforms.
A2C Helps a Special Swimmer
Lily is a 10 year old, 5th grader from St. Johns Florida who was born with many congenital anomalies and was given the diagnosis, OEIS Complex, Exstrophy and Spina Bifida. Lily has had many procedures and surgeries to reconstruct her back, pelvis and internal organs. Lily started out as a fighter and continues to be a survivor and thrive despite her physical limitations. For mobility, Lily uses AFO braces on her feet and lower extremities as well as a walker and wheelchair to assist with distance and endurance. Lily has qualified for the National Junior Disability Championships for her age group and disability classification (S8), run by Wheelchair Sports USA. This is like the Junior Olympics swim championships for junior disabled athletes. She qualified in every event she swam (7 in all) in USA Swimming and Wheelchair Sports competition. Athletes to Champions is helping to sponsor Lily to help raise the funds needed to make her the youngest swimmer ever to make the US Paralympic Swim Team.
St. Augustine Pop Warner
Athletes to Champions had been looking for a local cause to be involved with. Bo Reid wanted to start a West Augustine (FL) Pop Warner football team to keep kids involved in the community and out of trouble. It was a match made in heaven.
In their first season, the West Augustine Yellow Jackets signed up more than 130 players, ages five to fifteen. Despite raising more than $20,000 to get the program funded, the Yellow Jackets were still short $8,000 needed for equipment. A volunteer with the league got in touch with Cathy Parker, President of Athletes to Champions. He was familiar with her efforts to install a turf field in Barrow, Alaska and he knew that her organization concentrates on helping at-risk children through athletics. Cathy stated that Athletes to Champions would help financially as the Board had been looking for a worthy project close to home.
On September 6, 2008, Cathy Parker, along with husband Carl and A2C Vice President Brad Hill, presented the West Augustine Pop Warner League a $2,000 check raised through individual donations. The funds will be matched, up to $5,000, by State Representative Bill Proctor.
“We’re trying to keep more of these kids involved and help them out where they’re not in the streets,” Bo Reid said. “That’s pretty much what our association is tailored around.”
Project Alaska Turf
“Project Alaska Turf was inspired by an Emmy Award winning ESPN documentary by Wayne Drehs on a community in Barrow, Alaska. The program focused on a football program that was implemented in order to reverse high teen suicide rates, accelerated dropout rates and increased teen drug use.
Band of Brothers Training Camp
For those who participated in Project Alaska, a very special bond was formed, a bond that will not be broken. The people of Barrow and the people who worked so diligently on the project will forever be connected by this dream come true. The players and coaches from both Barrow and Bartram Trial high schools formed very special friendships which have come to be called The Band of Brothers.
How ’bout’ those Whalers!
Three years ago, Barrow High School did not even have a football team. Just look at them now! With the help of generous donors like you, we were able to help them with the installation of the artificial turf field (our blue postage stamp on the top of the world!) We also have been able to help them with training. In July, a group of ten players and coaches from Bartram Trail High School were able to travel to Barrow to conduct a training camp for the Barrow Whaler football team. And now, believe it or not, the Whalers have just completed their regular football season, going 6-0! They are now headed to their state play-offs. Albert Gerke, the quarterback for the Whalers, just tied an Alaska State high school record by passing for 378 yards in a single game!! The success stories just keep on coming. Since the coming of the football program, student morale is high, the drop-out rate has decreased and the whole community is alive with football fever. One of the Barrow residents just recently e-mailed us a picture of some graffiti painted on a dumpster near the school superintendent’s home, with the message “What if no one gave 100%?” We love it! Another recent e-mail from a mother in Barrow said that the community has “not been the same” since the artificial turf field has gone in. She reported that some children have been using it to play soccer and she is hopeful that a soccer team might be formed. Where seeds are planted and nourished, a bountiful harvest will grow!