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GAME PLAN: Lehigh Acres Raiders raise money to keep playing

Posted at 9:51 PM, Mar 29, 2024

LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. — Football is supposed to be all fun and game's, but the Lehigh Acres Football Association says the game is not in their favor.

The team is raising thousands of dollars, so they can keep playing.

Jessica Gonzalez cheered for the Lehigh Acres Raiders football program when she was a young girl. The organization first started in 1984.

Now, her daughter does too.

She says the team they love needs a Hail Mary.

"The cost of the field we're going to have to pay per athlete it's a big concern for us right now," Gonzalez says.

On April 10, Lee County will reopen their home turf in Lehigh Acres Park. In the meantime, the Raiders paid to use East Lee County High School's fields and now plays in Buckingham.

It's the cost to come back home, that has Gonzalez and Athletic Director Dennis Varin worried.

Varin says, "we thought there would be some assistance at first."

He claims the county promised to pay for new park scoreboards and concession stand equipment.

However, the Lee County Parks and Recreation Office tells Fox 4 differently in a statement.

Lee County Parks & Recreation has had continual communication with the leaders of this youth sports league. The consistent standard for youth leagues using Lee County Parks & Recreation facilities is that the leagues are responsible for the purchase of scoreboards because they used solely by the leagues and not the general public. Likewise, leagues supply their concession equipment, which they use as a fundraising source for the league.
Lee County Parks and Recreation

"The only way we can get money for that kind of stuff is that we have to ask for it, so we are going to our parents of a community that live paycheck to paycheck," Varin says.

He estimates it will cost their league around $30,000 for one scoreboard and concession equipment.

The not-for-profit league has a lot at stake.

Varin says, "I talk to our fourteen-year-olds, and a lot of their friends have been arrested or think they're gonna be arrested so keeping these kids safe and somewhere they have friends and have adults they can trust."

"We want to bring more families in so they can be a part of our family," Gonzalez says.