pee-wee-champions-web.jpgMIAMI — Christmas came early this year for the 105 lb TACOLCY Raiders Pee Wee football team after residents, business owners and Miami city officials rallied behind them to ensure they would make the trip to Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando and compete for the national championship.

The undefeated Raiders beat two teams and will play again on Friday in a game to determine the national champions.
Last week, after learning the Belafonte TACOLCY Center did not have money to send the team to Orlando, media outlets including the South Florida Times began telling their story.

According to center officials, the response was overwhelming. Within a day, TACOLCY’s phones began ringing off the hook, emails flooded in, people began donating online and individuals kept stopping into the center to drop off donations.

At the end of the night, TACOLCY — then almost $12,000 away from its fundraising goal — received one more phone call. This one was from Ernesto Perez, president/CEO of Dade Medical College, who pledged to cover whatever shortfall remained. The next day,

Dade Medical presented TACOLCY with a check for $11,806.44.

City of Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez donated $2,000 and  individuals and businesses contributed $5,400.

“It is incumbent on institutions within the community to support, help and nurture our future leaders. Dade Medical College prides itself on being inclusive and community-driven. We teach our students just as I teach my daughter, nephews and nieces that any goal no matter how high or difficult is attainable,” Perez said.

TACOLCY officials welcomed the outpouring of support.

“We are extremely grateful for the love that has been showered on us. This is a fundamental example of what community should really look like and the power that we have when the public and private sectors unite to support the efforts of our youth in this community,” said Alison Austin, CEO of TACOLCY.

The organization’s athletics director Cedric Hooper said he was “overwhelmed” by the show of support. “We are forever grateful and I know all of the athletes will cherish this moment forever,” he said.