Donye Mitchell was seeking an affordable way for his son to play youth football in Santa Monica, and now he has a new option.
Mitchell was elated to hear that the Valley Youth Conference was launching the Westside Wolfpack, a local affiliate that will provide football and cheerleading opportunities for children in and around Santa Monica.
The nonprofit group will serve children ages 5-14 in a variety of divisions, and it is aiming to welcome all families regardless of their financial situations.
The season begins Sept. 12.
Jerico Richardson, who saw a need for programming for underserved youth in the area, founded the Westside Wolfpack.
“It’s his vision,” said program representative Aggi Roselli. “He felt there was a lack in opportunity for kids on the Westside to participate in sports regardless of their ability to pay. There are kids who are homeless, and the coaches become these kids’ dads and the team moms become their moms. It’s such an important thing to have in place for these kids. They wouldn’t have much else to do otherwise.”
The Valley Youth Conference and some of its member teams have partnered with a government-sponsored program that will provide children with meals after practices.
The Westside Wolfpack expects to serve about 150 kids in football and another 150 in cheerleading, Roselli said. There is a flag football option for the youngest participants.
She said the establishment of the Westside Wolfpack likely would not have come to fruition without the support of area realtor Michele Blackmon, who recently hosted a fundraiser for the youth football club at Willie Jane restaurant on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. The event brought in about $1,600 and featured an appearance by Willie Gault, a former professional football player and Olympic athlete.
The Westside Wolfpack plans to have games at Santa Monica and Venice high schools. The Valley Youth Conference features teams from throughout the region, and the Hawthorne Jaguars and the Mid-City Ravens are joining the organization this year along with the Wolfpack.
The group is hosting walk-up registration every weeknight in August from 6 to 8 p.m. at Penmar Park in Venice. Scrimmages will begin Aug. 17.
Registration costs $250 per participant but Roselli said the organization fundraises so all kids can play.
“We want to get kids off the street,” she said.
Mitchell said he knows parents on the Westside who drive their kids as far as Pasadena and Watts for youth football opportunities.
“We just want the kids in Santa Monica, in this area, to know they have an option to play exciting football,” he said.
To register with the Westside Wolfpack, or for more information, call (424) 625-2120 or visit www.westsidewolfpack.com.