Each year, about 500 youngsters from Chester County take the field as Downingtown Young Whippet football players and cheerleaders.And when they return this year to the home of the Whippets on Water Plant Way in Downing-town, they will encounter Young Whippet facilities much different from the way they left them last season.
This is exactly the vision Marc Dinacci had in mind when he launched the Downingtown Young Whippet Capital Fund Campaign.
Dinacci, whose son, Matthew, plays on the 100-pound team, observed the Young Whippet facilities did not match the organization's spirit.
"As a parent of a player, I see the loyalty that people have to the organization. The coaches do a great job with all the kids, and the kids love it. It seems to me that the facilities should match the quality of the organization,"
The campaign's goal is to raise $500,000 with help from area businesses and community members to fulfill a three-part revitalization effort, which includes new bleachers, a concession stand with bathrooms, a picnic pavilion and a paved parking lot with handicapped-accessible ramps.
DYW President Tom Kucera said, "Marc thought we could improve the facilities, he had the vision to make a good facility great."
Kucera and his staff transformed the Downingtown Whip-pet fields after they first moved to Water Plant Way in 1997. They built a press box, installed lights for the practice and game fields, and rehabilitated the field surfaces. But the planned renovations presented a financial burden beyond the organization's ability to fund by itself. And the organization did not want to raise the cost of participating in its programs. "We are a nonprofit youth football and cheerleading organization. We want to keep it affordable for people in the area to participate; we didn't want to price anybody out," Kucera said.
No timeline is set for the three-phase renovations to be complete; but the concession stand is scheduled to open at the start of this season in September.
"This is a multi-year goal. It depends on how quickly we can raise the money we have to start somewhere," Dinacci said.
Downingtown Young Whip-pets has turned out players such as Matt Ryan, drafted third overall by the Atlanta Falcons this year; Arlen Harris, who has played for the St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons; and Tina Nicholson, who played basketball for Penn State and later in the WNBA.
"It's all about the kids, giving them the opportunity to play. And I love it as a parent because it's competitive and educational at the same time, and there's nothing wrong with having both," Dinacci said.
Kucera observed "the AllChes-Mont Team is littered with kids who played in our program. We prepare kids to play at the next level."
The registration fee covers "everything except shoes, socks and practice jerseys. We take care of all game uniforms and pads for the boys (and the cheerleaders) - we buy 90 percent of all the equipment and give that out," Kucera said.
Tax-deductible donations may be sent to the Downingtown Young Whippets Capital Fund at: DYW Capital Fund, 760 Warwick Road, West Chester, PA 19380. Information can also be found online at www.gowhippets.org.