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NFM Cowboys kick off with casino night

September 7, 2016
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The hope for the North Fort Myers Cowboys youth football team is to bring back the feeling of family involvement in youth sports.

On Saturday, at the Harborside Convention Center in Fort Myers, many of those families and supporters met for a night of blackjack, craps and Texas Hold 'Em, all to raise money for a team that hopes to be on the field by the new year.

The team held a Casino Night, which featured many of the games people enjoy, as well as a raffle for sports memorabilia, gift certificates and other items.

Article Photos

Linda Clayton, the dealer, with Jacob and Christine Amann playing blackjack at the North Fort Myers Cowboys fundraising Casino Night at Harborside Convention Center last week.


Ryan Williams, president of the organization that will field five football teams and cheer programs, will hold its first registration on Nov. 5 at the recreation center.

Williams said he was approached two years ago by someone who wanted to see another program in the area to serve as an alternative to other organizations.

"Some people didn't like how things were being handled in other programs and wanted a change to a more family atmosphere like it used to be," Williams said.

Robert Gessa, athletic director, said he wants to offer a different program to the youth of Southwest Florida that gets families and the community more involved with the children, at a price families can afford.

"Kids need guidance and a little extra help. The dropout rate is high and we see the crime in Fort Myers every day. That's because kids don't have options or anyone to help them along," Gessa said. "We want to be a more cost-effective program. If you can't afford it, we'll sponsor you."

Williams said he wants to bring the camaraderie back, where families hung out on Friday nights and the community becomes engaged again in youth sports.

The Cowboys will field teams in U6, U8, U10, U12 and U14 with American Youth Football (AYF), a national organization with hundreds of programs, all with unlimited weight.

The team will play games at the North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, with a regional tournament scheduled next year somewhere in Lee County.

Williams said the idea isn't to compete with Pop Warner, just give kids who may not be able to play ordinarily a chance to compete.

So far, the response has been great, Williams said.

"People are calling us out of the blue saying they've heard about us and are interested. Things have been very positive," Williams said.

Among those interested are Travis Bennett and his wife, Carissa. Travis had coached football with many of the team's directors for many years and friends for much longer and wanted to show their support. They have two kids who are at an age to play in this league.

"We coached at Cape Jr. when it was more family oriented. Many of the families these days just drop the kids of and leave like a babysitter service," Travis said. "It's important that the parents are involved. You promote that atmosphere and it promotes stronger bonds at home."

"It's a family thing they can enjoy together. You can take those bonds outside the field," Carissa said. "It's a great place to make memories for your kids and build friendships with the other families."



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