This past week I had a chance to live the truth of this video – “No one can do anything truly great alone.”  While owners are absolutely necessary to the process of community transformation, it really is a team sport.


This past weekend the Southside Soldiers took the field.  At the helm was Coach Tony Lee surrounded by his faithful team of coaches.  On the sidelines were supporters, parents and cheer leaders.  To the casual on-looker this site would look like any other youth sporting event and of course at one level it was.  This was all about those boys getting a chance to play football.  What the casual onlooker could not see is that this it was a miracle.

Last year when Tony came up with the idea of starting a football team as a way of mentoring the young men in the neighborhood and as a way of building neighborhood pride, he was told by Richmond City Parks and Recreation that it would cost $20,000 for his team to join the city league.  The team was crushed but not defeated.  Tony lost many of his players and about half of his coaches but a remnant kept the faith.

That little flicker of hope was fanned on Martin Luther King Day this past January during a neighborhood celebration in Hillside Court.  Lindsay, Tony’s wife, mentioned Tony’s dream to Florence Brooks, one of our friends from Brandermill Church.   Mrs. Brooks not only told Lindsay about the Design’d for Youth Spring football league (D4YFL) but she contacted the league on behalf of the team.  The league graciously offered to allow the boys to join the league at a discounted price.

As miraculous as this was, we would still have to raise $1,800 in a very short amount of time. So Patrice shared the need with the Hillside Family Dream Team which meets at Brandermill Church.  That team amazed us all by raising the needed funds in less than a week. 

Channel 12 News found out about the team and showed up with a news camera and shot a wonderful story.  Pastor Williams just happened to be watching the news that day and contacted me the next day to find out how he could help.  It turns out he has a 42 passenger bus that he has committed to using to transport the team to all their games.  One more hurdle was cleared. 

The next challenge was getting parents to go to the DMV and pay $10 to cover the cost of ID’s required by the league. Patrice ran a shuttle bus back and forth to the DMV during the week prior to the game.  Not everyone had $10 but somehow the donations from those with resources covered almost exactly the cost of the fees for those with no funds.  The neighborhood and our church partners rose to the occasion.

The final hurdle was to get all the equipment including pads, helmets, socks and cleats donated by game day.  We had only a few weeks to pull off this miracle.  Through Facebook, a connection with I9 Sports and lots of individual asks, we got almost everything donated.  The Wednesday evening before the game, we launched the Youth Sports Dream Team at Trinity UMC.  We were still lacking game socks, several pairs of cleats and a few pads.  A frantic call was made to the local sports supply store and a late night visit by our generous new friends from Trinity UMC yielded the final pieces. 

While there were only a handful of fans in the stands on Saturday morning, this team probably has a larger group of supporters and champions than any team in our city.

This past week I wrote about growing “owners” and how Tony is just one of the many owners we get to support.  The video above captures the power of tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit. However, as important as owners are to the development process, this video and the story above capture an equally important fact, no one can build a successful program, business or enterprise alone.  Community Development is a team sport!  Thank you to all who helped make Tony’s dream and the dreams of all the resident leaders Embrace supports a reality.