Vernon youth football and cheer squads received a groundswell of interest this season, with a 50.8 percent increase in signups from the 2021-22 season, according to Vernon Youth Football & Cheer (VYF&C), a 501(c) nonprofit that organizes these programs.
This season, 267 football players and cheerleaders registered, ranging from kindergarten up to eighth grade. VYF&C saw a 24.5% increase in cheer registrations and an 81% increase in football registrations. The organization went from four cheer teams to six. The increase in participation also required additional volunteers and four more coaches.
During the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many school sports were shuttered or greatly curtailed, resulting in a loss in participation. Now the kids are ready to get back to it. While this resurgence is good news for football and cheer fans, it has placed a financial strain on VYF&C.
VYF&C treasurer Jessica Labita noted that the league had to purchase several extra helmets and shoulder pads to accommodate the increase in players, which was further hampered by continuing supply chain issues.
“Our football director, Rob Labita, and VP, Nick Lynn, worked tirelessly to ensure that all players had equipment before the season started and that we did not have to turn anyone away from the program. This included ensuring the procurement of the appropriately sized equipment based on the ages of the children registered — an additional complexity.”
Labita noted that the organizers scoured local sporting goods stores throughout the area to find the right equipment. Securing uniforms was also a feat due to supply chain disruptions, but the organization was able to secure them with the help of Finish Line Sports. Additional cheer uniforms also had to be purchased.
But after buying all the new gear, and after being hit with a 28.5% increase in insurance coverage and a 65.2% increase in referee costs, the VYF&C will need to refill its coffers to ensure funding for the 2023 season and beyond.
“I’m so proud of our board and the collaboration and dedication that went into making this season happen,” Labita said, adding, “we’re relying heavily on the town to support our fundraising initiatives this year to ensure a successful program going forward and really appreciate everyone’s support.”
Several funding efforts are planned this October and November to do just that.
VYF&C will be hosting a “You’ve Just Been Booed” fundraiser, with signups starting September 29 and running through to October 28. For a donation of $20, you can surprise your friends and neighbors by purchasing a ghostly lawn decoration to adorn any private yard in Vernon. VYF&C will also provide fun add-ons, such as a $10 “safety spell,” which will grant you protection against being “ghosted,” and a $10 “exorcism,” which will remove the ghost from the lawn within 24 hours. Donors can “boo the board” for $50, which will place ghosts on the lawns of all VYF&C board members, or purchase a “grand ghosting” for $100, which includes a ghost decoration, one pumpkin, a candy basket and a $25 gift certificate to a local farm market.
If you get “ghosted,” you can also find out who did it by giving a $5 donation. For more information on this fundraiser, visit the VYF&C Facebook page or email email@example.com.
On Friday, October 7, the organization plans to hold a fundraising golf outing at Crystal Springs. The cost ranges from the $150 Bronze tier package to the $900 Platinum tier. Those interested may contact Kim Rivera, the VYF&C president, at 973-903-7325 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday, October 30, Vernon High School will host a cheer competition, and then on November 11, VYF&C will have its annual $100 raffle and dinner fundraiser at the Vernon VFW. Cash donations will also be accepted from now through November 5. Again, more details on each of these fundraisers can be found on the organization’s Facebook page.
“We are extremely grateful and thankful for the number of participants in our program this year, said Rivera. “As a board we have faced many obstacles to make sure the program is able to continue to run at this capacity. We have several fundraisers that we are hosting in the next couple of months, such as our annual golf outing and our annual $100 Raffle! These are open to anyone, but any donation is greatly appreciated!”
Additional VYF&C board members include Ed Baker (secretary), Greg Carter (flag football director/safety coordinator), and Danielle Kohler (cheer director). For a complete game schedule, sign-up information and additional fundraising details, visit vernonyouthfootball.org.