Visit to battered Port Arthur brings life lessons
For weeks, Austin residents saw the effects of Hurricane Harvey along the Texas gulf coast on television. Children asked questions. Parents tried to find answers.
For families along the coast, the images were all too real. Schools were flooded, homes were destroyed, and sports became an afterthought. In Port Arthur, a town hit hard by Harvey, there was a real possibility that the local Pop Warner football season wouldn’t happen.
“A lot of our kids lost their homes. Some are now living in tents,” said Otis Brooks, President of the Gulf Coast Pop Warner Football League in Port Arthur. “Our goal was to keep these kids together and to get their minds off the devastation all around them.”
The season started three weeks late. Some players didn’t make it back to play. Their parents had more pressing matters like trying to rebuild homes and lives. But, football did return. In late September, two teams from Port Arthur played in Austin. Three weeks later, the kids from Austin returned the favor. In all, three teams from Southwest Austin Pop Warner and one team from Westlake Pop Warner made the four-hour trip to Port Arthur to give the local teams a game in their hometown.
“The week prior to the game, the coaches reminded our players of why we were traveling to Port Arthur,” said parent Blanca Ibarra. “They told our boys that ‘these kids lost equipment, clothes and a lot more. For one Saturday, we can help them try to forget about their problems.’”
The kids from Southwest Austin also came with a U-Haul filled with clothes, shoes, and school supplies to give to their opponents.
After the Mighty Mite game between the SW Austin Dawgs (White) and the Gulf Coast Crusaders there was a prayer shared by both teams. Then, on the way home, some Austin parents drove their kids through the flood-ravaged neighborhoods were furniture, clothing, and personal items were piled up in front yards waiting to be picked up and hauled away.
“When we drove around, my son’s eyes were big. We saw beds and furniture on the streets. He kept asking me, ‘Dad is that someone’s bed?’” said parent and coach, Noel Candelaria. “He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.”
“Our kids got to see something they had never seen before. They saw devastation, but they also learned that even though you experience hard times, you can go forward and continue living. You can persevere,” said parent, Bill Walsh.
For the families in Port Arthur, the visit from the teams from Austin won’t be forgotten.
“It was a great day,” said Brooks. “We teach our kids that life is like football, ‘If you get knocked down, you have to pick yourself up and keep playing.’ We’re moving on, and I know this experience will make our kids stronger.”
HCPW, Griffin deliver equipment to flood-ravaged league
The Colorado River Valley Youth Football Coalition (CRVYFC) was another youth football program hit by Hurricane Harvey. The league lost much of their equipment because of flooding.
It didn’t take long for Hill Country Pop Warner (serving Central Texas) and USA Football to help. The organization gathered donations from its nine organizations and supplied CRVYFC with footballs, equipment, ball pumps, water bottles, and more. Former Bowie High School, Texas Longhorn, and NFL star, Michael Griffin, also made the trip to deliver the supplies in Columbus.
“It was so exhilarating to see the smiles on the kids’ faces when we delivered the equipment,” said Janan Miller, President of Hill Country Pop Warner. “These kids needed to have something to look forward to, and we were able to get them the equipment they need to start their season. It was great!”
Article by SportsXpress, photos by Blanca Ibarra and Janan Miller