They’re ready to hit and they’re going to look good doing it.
The Kwatny Foundation Football League scored a $5,000 grant on Aug. 25 as part of SportsNet New York’s annual Play Ball campaign. Representatives from the television station recently attended the squad’s practice at South Shore High School, filming the team for a feature which will run the on the network in late September. It’s a big-time boost for the program — which has helped spark youth interest in football since 2005 — and the grant will go towards much-needed helmets, shoulder pads, and practice jerseys for the take-all-comers program.
“It’s tremendous because every little bit helps,” league president Rahim Salahuddin said. “We see a lot of hardships coming in and we can’t ever see ourselves turning away anybody that really wants to play. So this is really important.”
Sahuddin applied for the Play Ball grant every year but considered skipping the application process this time around after years of rejection. But he changed his mind at the last minute and sent in his paperwork on the final night of open entry, he said.
“I’m an expert at filling out grants, because I’m usually getting denied,” Sahuddin said. “I did this one on the last day and, lo and behold, a few weeks later, they gave me a call, and I was so excited to hear back from them.”
Sahuddin wasn’t the only one who was excited. His players — more than 100 local kids ranging from 5-year-old “tiny mites” to middle schoolers — were thrilled to hear that they’d be sporting brand-new gear at practice later this year.
“It’s going to be great to have all-new stuff,” said 12-year-old Crown Heights native Dondre Simmons. “I’m just happy to be playing.”
More than 40 program athletes have gone on to Division-I programs since the foundation’s inception in 2005 — something that played a large part in SportsNet New York’s grant decision. Sahuddin is determined to provide a safe haven for area kids, even if it’s just a few hours on a football field, and this grant help keeps that dream alive, he said.
“You just got to do what you can, but it’s a struggle,” Sahuddin said. “With what’s going on in society, we’ve just got to stay abreast and on top of our game. We grab whoever we can grab. We can’t save everyone, but the ones that we do is a plus.”