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Goal is to help 10 low-income boys play youth football

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POSTED July 14, 2017 1:25 a.m.

During her stint as the CEO of a local non-profit that worked with families facing issues with poverty, Manteca Jaguars Vice President Laura Vieira knows how important being involved with something can be for the life of a child.
And now she’s hoping to present that opportunity to as many as 10 boys in seventh and eighth grade that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford playing football.
This week Vieira, who has been involved with the Manteca Jaguars for nearly a decade, announced that the organization will be offering scholarships to as many as 10 players who are on the cusp of entering high school and wouldn’t otherwise be able to play – using a series of sponsors and fundraisers to pay for the effort that she hopes will eventually grow to include all students from that age bracket.
Being such an impressionable age, Vieira said that it’s critical for these children to be involved with something and the benefit of being a part of a team sport that builds a sense of family and community only adds to the experience.
“I believe in the benefit of sports from the things that I saw with Ray of Hope, and back then I used to beg people to help sponsor our kids so that we could get involved in something like this,” she said. “Those two hours that the spend at practice may be the only two hours of their entire day that they get to be kids – we never really know what’s going on behind closed doors.
“It’s a place to go and it’s a family unit and whether it’s a football team or a baseball team, the more that the community puts into these kids, the more they will get out of it.”
Because of the distinct cost associated with cheerleading and the way in which the uniforms are priced individually, the organization will not be offering the same scholarship to cheerleaders at this time, although Vieira said that may change in the future depending on fundraising and backing efforts for those who might be financially disadvantaged.
And while seventh and eighth graders are the one targeted by this outreach, younger football players that might not otherwise be able to afford the registration fees may be included as well depending on circumstances and availability.
The only thing that the scholarship recipients would be responsible for, Vieira said, would be furnishing their own cleats.
“We’ll be able to provide the equipment and the uniform, and we’re hoping this is something that will really take off to give as many kids as possible the opportunity to participate,” she said. “So many times have I seen kids that have put down their deposit and couldn’t fundraise the money by the deadline and have to walk away because finances in their family are just too tight.
“This is the age when these kids need to be doing something, and playing sports will help keep them out of trouble and that’s what we’re pushing for.”
For additional information about the program and what it takes to qualify, contact Manteca Jaguars President Kindal Justis at 209.456.6495 or Vieira at 209.271.4563. Those wishing to sponsor players, or make any donations towards the program, are also encouraged to contact either Justis or Vieira.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

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