CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - They play their hearts out during practice. But this season, the Bellwood Bulldogs youth football team might not take the field. They're in desperate need of serious cash to pay league dues.
These are the Bellwood Bulldogs. These kids have a lot of heart, they love the sport but the one thing that's holding them back from playing this season is nearly $8,000 in dues they're struggling to come up with.
"Go Bulldogs, woof woof woof woof," chants the players.
Their team spirit is, without a doubt, strong. Their determination to be the best, just the same. But practices like this, may be just that, for the Bellwood Bulldogs and their cheerleaders. The money isn't there to kick off a new season.
"Almost $8,000 right now for this season and what's left over from last season. (That's a chunk of change.) Yes it is we're really struggling," said Bellwood Athletic Association Vice President and Bulldog football coach, Dale Thompson.
Half is due by September 1st. The rest, by the first of October. A hard lesson for the children, their parents and coach Thompson.
"When I had to break the news to the parents Monday that - that we were getting ready to disband, it was the hardest thing I've ever done looking at those kids telling them that. It broke my heart," said Thompson.
For nearly 50 years, the Bellwood Athletic Association has paid to play. It owes the Chesterfield Quarterback League. Parents now chip in $100 for each player. But Thompson said they come from low income families who can barely afford to put food on the table.
"Just bad times. Parents are having to decide whether their kids can play or not and unfortunately these last few years these parents haven't been able to do it," said Thompson.
Shirley Estes admits it's a struggle.
"I don't care what I got to do, work two or three jobs, I'll get him going," said Estes.
Because when she looks out onto the field at her 9-year-old son Ronnie Estes.
"I see his name in lights," said Estes.
Ronnie and the other boys have dreams beyond Bensley Field.
"Eagles right, yup he wants to be with the Eagles."
But right now...
"The money doesn't mean anything to the kids, it's just they want to play football. They don't understand why they can't," said Thompson.
The season starts September 10th. The Bellwood Bulldogs hopes to sign up new players at a festival next weekend. The festival is at St. Augustine Church at Beulah and Hopkins Roads. The event runs from the 26th through the 28th. Bellwood Bulldogs will have a dunking booth. Also expect carnival rides, arts and crafts, and food.
Thompson says if you'd like to donate, become a sponsor or even join the team, give him a call at 804-437-2724 or email him at email@example.com