The search for a permanent home field isn’t stopping Amherst Jr. Comets youth football from raising money for a great cause.
This year’s fundraiser game on Sept. 30 will support the Lorain County Blue Foundation, which aids critically injured law enforcement officers, as well as the families of officers killed in the line of duty.
A raffle will be held during the game and police officers will be invited to have lunch courtesy of the Lake Erie Youth Football League.
St. Joseph Catholic Church of Amherst will host the event starting at 1 p.m. that day. But the league is still in search of what would be its first regular home field in over five years, said new AJC board president Mike Biro.
“The schools have been very gracious in letting us practice on the varsity practice field,” he said. “As far as games go, there’s safety concerns and our Amherst youth tackle teams haven’t had a field that’s met those standards in a long time. Each week there’s five host sites. Buckeye can be hosting teams from Amherst and Clearview. It just worked out where Amherst traveled out there five out of seven weeks last year.”
Amherst’s youth teams had used the Amherst Junior High field for games until it was converted to a soccer complex. There are 144 kids across three tackle teams for grades three to six, six flag teams for grades one to four, and beginning this year, a football fundamentals program for kindergartners and preschoolers.
There are no other prospects for a permanent home field in Amherst.
“The varsity field I’ve been told is basically out of the question,” Biro said. “We’re asking around about other options but there’s nothing on the horizon right now. We played a game on the varsity practice field approximately five years ago. But there’s safety concerns with a baseball field located nearby and trees lined up along one sideline. It’s just not a suitable field to play games at.”
Two years ago, the league raised $10,600 for Autism Speaks of Northeast Ohio and last year put together $3,500 for LifeShare Community Blood Services.
Biro said raising money for police officers this year touches especially close to home after the death of Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper Kenneth Velez, who was struck last September by a passing vehicle during a traffic stop on I-90 in Lakewood. Velez was an Amherst youth football coach from 2009 to 2012 and his son Christian will be a junior this fall on the Amherst Steele varsity squad.
“I coached Christian Velez from his second grade season on,” said Biro. “Trooper Velez and his family became very good friends of ours. He coached with me on my staff and to this day his former wife and my wife are very good friends. The whole accident touched us deeply and is very near and dear.”
A $500 field fee charged by St. Joseph will also be donated to the Lorain County Blue Foundation, Biro said.
“When myself and other board members took over the league this year, we started right away with what we call Operation Home Field Advantage,” he said. “I tasked Jim Snowden, another board member, with talking to St. Joe’s about their field and they stepped up huge. St. Joe’s is taking no money from us. The fee is going directly to the foundation.”
The league will host players for equipment fitting on July 15 and picture day on Aug. 12 before the regular season kicks off Aug. 26.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.