JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – The Forever Life Achiever Vikings youth football team – with children as young as 5 – had more than $7,000 worth of equipment stolen just weeks before the start of the season.
At practice on North Jefferson Street on Tuesday, some kids had helmets and shoulder pads. Some had one or the other. Some didn’t.
That’s because when team president Rickie Simon Jr. opened his storage shed that held the gear on Monday, he was shocked to find that 46 helmets and 44 sets of shoulder pads had been stolen. Simon said the total loss of the items listed on the police report was $7,315.
“We actually have a scrum next week, and the scrum is essential for our kids to have the opportunity to have that pre-season experience with helmets and shoulder pads,” Simon said. “For some, this may be their first experience with helmets and shoulder pads, so scrumming with another opponent gives them the confidence they need to go into the season.”
The good news is that Simon has already asked members of the community to volunteer to participate where they can, but they still need more help getting helmets and pads for the kids.
Every year, Simon said, he pays out of pocket to ensure children have what they need to play football and learn those valuable life lessons.
Simon led the teams for nine years, and last spring he attended the high school graduations of his first class of kids who had played for him. The impact he tries to have through football has been a big priority for Simon, who grew up in the Brentwood area playing on the same grounds.
“It was our freshman year, going to the graduation of our kids that we served in the Blodgett,” Simon said. “When I went to graduation, one of the kids was so excited that his junior football coach was there. Being able to support these kids means the world, because it goes beyond football.
If you want to help, Simon has set up a way to collect donations. To find out how to donate, call 904-859-5453. Simon has also set up a Cash app for donations to $flavikings.
He says he has struggled to find new equipment due to a plastic shortage impacted by the many supply chain challenges in the wake of the pandemic, but he hopes to find a way to make sure that all of its players wear helmets and shoulder pads. in time for the start of the pre-season.
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