October 31, 2023
The Olney Eagles youth football team is back in action, after donors and volunteers stepped up to repair damaged lights at the team’s home field.
Earlier this month, thieves tore copper wiring out of the lights at the association’s Whitaker Avenue field, forcing the cancellation of games and practices for the players and cheerleaders.
Democratic mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker heard about the theft and helped get the ball rolling with a fundraising campaign. “If we are unwilling to prioritize our children, what does that say about us as leaders in the community?” she asked.
The response was immediate.
City businesses, organizations, and others helped fund the repairs, which were estimated at $55,000, and the response was immediate. The lights came back on Thursday, and the Eagles were able to play their Homecoming games this past weekend.
"Throughout my career, I have taken immense pride in my ability to bring people together to solve complex challenges and improve the lives of Philadelphians,” Cherelle Parker said. “When I got the call from Coach Hunley saying that our kids' season was on the line, I didn't hesitate to offer my help.”
"What I did not anticipate was the outpouring of support from labor, community organizations, and the media,” she said.
When our good friend Cherelle called to tell us about the vandalism, we immediately offered to repair the damage for free. Many of our members have young kids in sports programs, so we know how important they are to kids’ well-being.
“I'd like to thank my family at IBEW 98 for fixing the lights and wiring, free of charge,” she said. “They have always been there for our city and the communities they serve. I am proud to have them as close partners and friends.”
Jaws Youth PlayBook, a foundation run by former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski, donated $30,000 to pay for repairs, and an anonymous New York-based foundation provided another $25,000. Other foundations, and even private Philadelphia citizens, stepped in to help as well. We’re delighted that this all-hands-on-deck rescue mission came together so quickly so the Eagles’ season could be saved.
“My foundation is for advocating for at-risk youth in our communities that need help,” Jaworski said. “It's all about being outside, getting them active and involved in sports, which creates friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Thanks to donors and supporters including Jaworski’s foundation and Philadelphia City Councilmember Quetcy Lozada, “not only will the Olney Eagles play again, but we also have instilled faith in so many residents that the power of government and community collaboration works,” Cherelle Parker said. “This is Philadelphia at its best.”
Eagles President Ed Hunley appreciated the effort. “On behalf of the incredibly grateful young football players and cheerleaders of the Olney Eagles Youth Association, I want to sincerely thank Cherelle Parker, IBEW Local 98, Ron Jaworski and the Jaws Youth PlayBook, the skilled union electricians of Carr & Duff, and many other caring, generous people for coming so quickly to our aid after the vandalism of our field lights,” he said.
“Our kids and their parents were ecstatic to have our lights back so quickly
and just in time for our Homecoming games and festivities,” Hunley said. “To
come out of such a dark moment in our program and back into the light was a
blessing beyond measure. We are eternally grateful to all those who stepped
up for our kids in such an amazing way.”
Carr & Duff started the job on Tuesday and completed repairs on Thursday.
The Eagles, which have multiple teams at different age levels, won three of the four games they played Saturday, and one out of two on Sunday. That’s a great result, especially considering the teams couldn’t practice for much of the month due to the vandalism.
The story isn’t over. “The $30,000 is going towards the lights to get them up and running, but it's up to the local neighbors and neighborhood to keep this program going,” Jaworski said.