COPPERAS COVE — Lucinda Thorton and her husband said they’d make the hour-ish drive all the way to Cedar Park just to make sure their son can play youth football.
Sitting on the patio at Dave’s Bar & Grill, Thorton was one of many residents who attended the daylong Youth Tackle Football Benefit on Sunday.
“In Texas, (football) is a way of life. Our kid started in third grade. He’s going to be in fifth grade now, and he’s very upset about it possibly closing,” she said.
Organized by Cove resident Robert Troy, the event was quickly put together to give the city’s youth football program $12,000 to stay afloat next season.
Officials’ recent decision to cut $170,000 from the Parks and Recreation Department’s budget, which runs the program, threatens the league’s existence.
A steady stream of residents enjoyed adult beverages, live music, raffles, barbecue, pool and a good old-fashioned Madden NFL tournament at the event Sunday, and proceeds went to buy youth football helmets.
The bare minimum operating requirement this season is $12,000 to replace old, unsafe helmets.
Helmets usually have an average lifespan of around eight years and cost $85 a piece, but are imperative in preventing concussions, said Frank Seffrood, a city councilman who was in attendance.
Many residents at the event said the city program responsible for producing NFL players like Robert Griffin III and Charles Tillman was invaluable in getting children involved, outdoors, and out of trouble.
“In just a few words, football makes great men, and the world can’t have too many of those,” Troy said, who also coaches in the league. “I think you lose the heart and soul of your town (if the program is closed).”
The city also would suffer a huge competitive loss because the sport’s current competition level has made it hard to just start playing in middle school, Troy said.
“There are 10 or 14 teams in the league, and if you add the number of players on each team, doing away with this program is going to affect 280 kids. And what are they going to start doing, running drugs and getting in trouble?” said Charlie Young, former city official who was one of the first attendees to show up in support Sunday.
Sunday’s event will be the first of many, Seffrood said, and raising money for the youth football program is now a never-ending project for those involved.