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Chicago Jokers to play in Pop Warner football championship

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Chicago Jokers are on their way to Disneyworld, where they'll compete in the Pop Warner football championship.

It's a dream that almost didn't come true. The undefeated Jokers won the regionals and qualified for the Pop Warner Super Bowl playoffs, but they didn't have the money to get to Orlando, Florida. Participating costs about $2,000 per player. The Chicago Jokers have 17 members on the team.

Local businessman Ed Peterson, who played youth football, himself, heard the Jokers' story and stepped up to help. The bus company CEO donated the $23,000 the team still needed to go.

"It's heart pumping," football player Tyler Tipton said. "It's very overwhelming."

Tipton and the rest of the Jokers thanked Peterson as they boarded the bus for Florida on Friday morning.

"It's exciting. This is going to be my first time away from my family," Kaversia Barber, player, said.

"I can't think of anything like this ever happening. It's just outstanding," Eric McLendon, Chicago Jokers president, said.

"We're working real hard to make this opportunity for them a lifetime lasting memory, so they'll be always be able to tell their children, Hey I was a part of Pop Warner. Hey, we went to Disney," said coach Andre Cooper.

"If one child here, who wasn't going to college, continues their education and goes to college, and makes it in life, it's well worth it," Ed Peterson said.

Mario Lopez said he put his son, Mario Lopez Junior, in football to keep him safe.

"I saw the opportunity, keeping him off the streets, out the gangs, out the drugs," Mario Lopez, parent, said.

"It means a lot, not just to the children, but also to the parents," said Crystal Barrios.

The Jokers have an 18 to 20 hour drive. They'll play their fist pair of games on Sunday. If they win those, they'll play in the Pop Warner Super Bowl on Thursday.

"Whew," said football player Dreyce Denton. "This is like a big moment."

Coaches say anonymous donor gave about $4,500 for the trip.

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