August 10, 2018
It’s been a whirlwind 72 hours for Justin Young, an assistant head coach for Kensington High School’s football team.
On Tuesday morning, his team had no jerseys, no pads, no socks, no training equipment, and just $225 collected from the fundraiser the team had started to replace all the equipment lost after its storage shed was raided by drug users looking for money and shelter.
Early Friday afternoon, Young sounded like a new man on the phone as he described the overwhelming support from Philadelphians near and far. The Kensington Tiger's fundraiser originally hoped to raise $4,000, even though Young estimated it would take $16,000 to fully replace what had been taken.
The online fundraiser has since passed the $10,000 mark, and with other donations outside the internet, they’ve amassed more than $20,000 in support.
“It really, really took off,” Young said.
On Wednesday evening he spoke with U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, who represents Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District. Brady had seen media coverage of Young and his team, and said he didn’t want to ignore their plight, so he pledged $8,000 to help the team out.
“I just thought, ‘These kids are probably devastated,’” Brady said Wednesday night. “(Young) is out here mowing lawns to raise the money, working hard. I just told him, ‘Look, whatever you need, I’ll do it.’
“I’ve worked with these guys before, when they came to me about their field. They keep the kids off the streets and busy, they work hard for this team. They’re good people.”
Young said when Brady called he was overwhelmed — “I don’t have any words,” he said shortly after — and offered to get in his car and drive to Brady’s office that minute if that’s what was necessary.
Instead Young drove to Brady’s office on Thursday to pick up the check and chat about his football program, which Young calls underfunded.
"It's just like, bada-boom, I'm talking to Zach Ertz on the phone." – Justin Young
“He made a phone call right there for me, called downtown about getting a retaining wall built and getting a fence in there,” Young said.
But even Brady couldn’t compete with the call Young got late Wednesday night. He answered his phone — a phone that’s been buzzing nonstop with media requests since Tuesday — and, to his surprise, heard Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz’s mother, Lisa, on the other end.
Young chatted with Ertz’s mother, and then Ertz himself.
"It's just like, bada-boom, I'm talking to Zach Ertz on the phone," Young said. "It was unbelievable."
The two had heard his team’s story and, through the Ertz Family Foundation, wanted to help Young out. They offered $4,000, and said their goal is to outfit 40 of Young’s players, head-to-toe, this season.
Now comes the hard part, Young said – actually acquiring the equipment in time.
“We put an order in, but the way it works right now, it’s like trying to buy rock salt the same day as a snowstorm,” Young said. “It’s football season, and everyone needs equipment. I know our head coach, Sean Ryan, has made some calls. I believe we have 16 helmets and 16 sets of shoulder pads so far, but we still have to replace our practice pants and game day pants, and all our socks. And then our equipment — sled, hitting material.”
So they’re not all the way back at full strength just yet.
But Young will gladly deal with the headaches of ordering equipment rather than the nightmare of having none.
The Kensington Tigers’ first scrimmage is Aug. 18 against Strawberry Mansion.