By Erika Webb
One more win and the West Volusia Wolves could be national champions. On Saturday, Dec. 1, the football team won the first of two games they'll play for the Pop Warner National Super Bowl Championship after a long, but well-supported journey.
Winning the Southeast Regional Championship -- on Nov. 24 in St. Cloud -- was a first for any Pop Warner team from Volusia County. The 31-0 victory over Jacksonville's CFL Outlaws sent the Wolves where else -- Disney World.
Competing to be the Pop Warner National Super Bowl Champions in the "magic kingdom" proved to be more than just a battle on the field. The top Pop Warner teams from all over the country were set to gather for the competition, hosted by Disney and ESPN Dec. 1-8, but sliced any way, the better part of a week at Disney demands magical monetary maneuvering.
It was with winning in mind the Pop Warner Jr. Midget division team members and their coach assembled before the Deltona City Commission Nov. 19 to ask for help.
Coach Cameron Robinson, who is also the assistant principal at Galaxy Middle School, explained to the commission the team would need around $15,000 -- $750 per player -- to go to Disney for the national championship, "not if, but when" they won their next game.
He asked the commission to help spread the word to community organizations and individuals with the means to donate.
"Accomplished Pop Warner football teams travel from all over the country for the honor to compete among the best students and athletes that this country has to offer," Coach Robinson wrote in a fundraising letter he sent to community leaders and organizations.
After completing the regular season undefeated, the Wolves advanced to the playoffs, beating the best teams from Orange, Lake, Osceola, Seminole, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee and Pasco counties before outplaying South Florida's best, the defending national champions from Jensen Beach.
"We have a group of players that had already lost the southeast championship last year and they came hungry for the win," Coach Robinson said.
His son, Cameron Robinson, 13, plays on the team.
But the coach said proudly, "I have 22 sons."
The Wolves used an additional mascot throughout the season, wearing it on their jerseys, for inspiration and good luck. It was the number 61.3 -- the distance, in miles, from Deltona to Disney.
Pat Northey was at the Nov. 19 meeting as well. The Volusia County Council member and community leader is the proud grandmother of Wolves player number 20, Jacob Patterson, 13. She said the players weren't sitting around basking in glory the day after their big win in St. Cloud.
"They're such hardworking little guys," she said. "They're at Walmart doing a fundraiser today."
Ms. Northey said a call to Brighthouse resulted in a $750 pledge, the cost of one player's trip.
"We're all working hard to pull the money together, one step at a time," she said. "I'm going to be spending the next few days making a lot of phone calls."
She said the Four Townes Rotary committed to donating; Deltona mayor, John Masiarczyk, agreed to help; and Ms. Northey said she and Volusia County Council member-elect Pat Patterson each planned to contribute money to the cause.
"It takes the community recognizing the significance of this win," Ms. Northey said. "They're the champs!"
Coach Robinson said lodging at Disney was the biggest expense facing the Wolves. He said lodging alone is over $500 per player per day, and that's with four players sharing a room.
"We'll pay for whatever we have to pay for ourselves. We'll bring sandwich meat and bread," Coach Robinson said. "It's that experience the kids have earned and you want them to have the opportunity to do it."
The money got raised and on Nov. 30 the coach and his "22 sons" were on their way to Disney.
"We weren't going to let any team or any amount of money keep us from this goal," Coach Robinson said. "We had a hardworking group of kids and parents and I just want to thank the community, families and friends for helping us raise this money for our kids."
Jacob Patterson's mother, Marleen Bournival, is proud of the players, the cheerleaders and the community that supported the Wolves as they made their way to Disney.
"It's been a whirlwind, great but very fast," she said. "But we are so proud that the community and local government are supporting the boys."
She said $17,800 was raised in a matter of weeks.
"That will pay for lodging, tournament fees and everything that goes with having 22 boys in the same place for four days," she said.
Ms. Bournival is also a cheer coach for the organization. She said the Sr. Midget cheer squad made it to the national-level competition at Disney, and that several of the "football moms" have daughters on the Mighty Might cheer squad which was scheduled to perform onstage there.
"And we've been so fortunate to have the support of our Junior Midget cheerleaders during the regular and post-season games," she said. They've stood by the boys each step of the way. They kept them going, giving them spirit gifts. They've been our biggest fans."
"I think what's been so exciting is the buzz and the momentum," Ms. Bournival said. "Everyone seems just as excited as we are."
Ms. Northey provided Facebook friends a play by play report from Disney as she cheered the team to victory on Dec. 1. Her final post that day was a picture of the scoreboard, showing the 20-16 score in the close game against the Gary (Indiana) Steelers, along with the words, "Wolves win!"
"I knew the community would not let these young men down," she said. "What a terrific effort by everyone."