By Gina Martinez
Whitepoint Youth Football and Cheer hosted their opening day in honor of local first responders Saturday.
Players and parents filled Flushing Memorial Field, located at Willets Point Boulevard, between 149th and 150th streets, cheering on their kids as they played from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The family event even had former players revisit with their parents to watch the games.
Local members of the FDNY, NYPD and military members from Fort Totten attended the event, even throwing the first catch and taking pictures with the players.
Free food was given out as well, bagels in the morning and barbecue later in the day, for all the spectators and kids. Donna Better, of Bayside, sang the national anthem.
Yalda Fella, a volunteer and parent, has three kids in the league — a 7-year-old in the Peewee division, a 9-year-old in the junior division and a 5-year-old daughter who cheers.
“It was actually a great day,” Fella said. “It was beautiful. I actually teared up. Both my sons got their first touchdowns. It was just amazing to see the growth they’ve had since they’ve joined the league. The kids look up to their coaches. They’re great role models and it’s like a big family with the Whitepoint league. Such a great atmosphere.”
The Youth Football and Cheer is an in-house football and cheer league for kids ages 5-14 that teaches a safer form of the game called Heads-Up Football.
It is a safety program from USA Football that focuses on a more comprehensive, sportmanship-oriented approach to play football. League President John McArdle said that at Whitepoint, safety comes first for the players on the field, and that the The Heads-Up Football program allows parents to feel confident their children will be safe when on the field. He added that he hopes, as the league continues to grow, it can change the perception that football is unsafe.
McArdle said he was very happy with the way Opening Day turned out and he was excited about the rest of the season.
“All in all, Opening Day was a success,” he said. “It’s Week 1 of a nine-week season and all the hard work paid off. All the time and effort volunteers put in made me proud to be part of something like that. Football is my passion, it’s something that I take seriously — being able to be involved with the kids and give them an opportunity to play the game. In my eight years in the league, that day was by far the best I’ve ever spent on that field.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart