IOLA, Wis. (WSAW) -- The Packers support of youth football in the state is well known.
Last week, the team announced they were awarding matching grants to 18 youth football programs in Wisconsin, including one in our area.
"For football nerds, like us, it's kind of a kid in a candy store thing when you're given a grant like that."
For Scott Tappa, President of Iola Scandinavia Pee Wee Athletics, the candy here is a matching $1,000 grant given by the Packers to help the Iola-Scandinavia Firebirds' youth football program.
"We're a non-profit organization that tries to keep the fees down for the children and the families that are participating,” Tappa said. “As a result of that, we need to rely on a lot of external fundraising and sponsors and donors and things of that nature."
Running a football program for 50 kids between 3rd and 6th grade isn't cheap.
"We just bought all new helmets last year from Riddell, they were several hundred dollars apiece,” said Tappa. “We bought shoulder pads the year before that, which go from $50-$100."
But at a time when safety in football is under the microscope more than ever, cutting corners in those areas is not an option.
Tappa explains: "It gives them the advantage of having the safest, most up-to-date equipment to learn football with. Clearly that's an area that you don't want to cut costs on, you want to buy the best protective equipment for your children that you possibly can."
"Turn back the clock a couple of months to November and you'll remember the Iola-Scandinavia high school team winning the Division 6 state championship in Madison. Those involved with the youth program say one of the coolest parts of it, is seeing kids learning the game as Firebirds, becoming pillars on a championship winning team for the Thunderbirds."
"My first year, the sixth grade class of that time was the senior class on this year's team,” Tappa said. “To have seen those kids grow from 6th graders into 12th graders and just set the bar for excellence at our high school is really neat to reflect upon."
Who knows? Maybe the Firebirds of today, will become the Packers of tomorrow.