STOWE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — It’s the trip of their young lifetimes. Three of the Little Vikings Sto-Rox youth football teams won their league this year, and now two are invited to play in a big tournament in Florida in December.
Tradition runs deep in the program, where big names like current Buffalo Bill Damar Hamlin, got his start.
“You’re playing on a team that a lot of people played for that are popular now,” said 12-year-old Little Viking Ryder Shulin.
Still, this year’s group, aged from 5 to 14 years old, is paying its own path.
“We have teams who really embody what it’s like to be a team,” said Little Vikings President Cameron Culliver.
Three Little Vikings teams won a league championship this year. Two of them are now headed to Florida to play in a national tournament. It’s the first time the Little Vikings were invited to participate.
“I get to play in Florida. I get to play a game and have fun,” said 8-year-old Little Viking Dalynn Liddell.
The foundations of football and friendships are just a part of the Little Vikings mission. More importantly, it’s about what happens when they grow too big for the team’s field.
“That’s our mission. To make these kids become productive members of our community and society as a whole,” Culliver said.
The Little Vikings is geared toward at-risk kids. The goal is to create a positive environment to foster teamwork and responsibility.
“We’re products of our environment,” Cullvier added. “If we can shape the environment, shape our community with this program, then we can only imagine what’s going to happen years down the road.
Former WPIAL defensive player of the year at Central Catholic and former Pitt Panther captain Damar Hamlin is a shining example of that. The Little Vikings is where he started, so he’s proud to lend his support. Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation donated new uniforms and AED machines to the program. He comes around to support the kids as much as possible. Hamlin’s younger brother Damir and young cousin Kaiden Davis play for the Little Vikings.
“When he played at Pitt, I remember him saying that he’s passing the ball down to me,” 9-year-old Davis said.
The Little Vikings trip to Florida from Dec. 2nd through the 5th will cost $750 per player. There is a GoFundMe to help with expenses. https://www.gofundme.com/f/storox-little-vikings-end-of-year-celebrations
Culliver said, that for these young athletes, this experience is not just about the trip, but their overall journey.
“There are dreams out there that I can go out and achieve. There are goals that I can go out there and reach if I set my mind to it. That’s what I want these kids to understand and realize,” Culliver said.
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