TRUMBULL COUNTY Warren Little Raiders make goals a priority

This year's league operated in part with the help of a local pro football player who died over the summer.
WARREN -- Warren Little Raiders are about more than just football.
The coaches and players who make up the organization made a promise to Korey Stringer to build a strong corps of youth leaders who can carry on his tradition of excellence.
And that's just what they're doing, one game at a time.
Stringer, a Warren Harding High School standout who went on to play for Ohio State University and the Minnesota Vikings, died during a summer practice this year. He was known for his philanthropy and for what he gave back to his community.
Generous donor: WLR vice president Randy Patterson said Stringer donated his Pro Bowl check to the organization this year to help with operational costs.
"He was our No. 1 donor," Patterson said, explaining Stringer was promised that coaches would act as mentors for the kids and provide lessons that would also further their academic careers.
This season was the first time in the team's 11-year history that all three of WLR's age categories won their Super Bowl, played a few weeks ago at Mollenkopf Stadium.
The 95-pound and 115-pound weight classes beat little league teams in Champion. The 130-pound class beat a Niles team.
The two smaller classes went undefeated in the regular season and the 130-pounders lost one game to Niles, the team they eventually beat in the Super Bowl.
WLR's three teams constitute about 105 players and 55 cheerleaders, many who come from low- to moderate-income households, some with only one parent.
Budget issues: League president James Gavin said Stringer's check this year was for about $9,600. It takes WLR about $30,000 to operate each year, he said, adding that kids pay a fee to play and fund-raising makes up the rest of the budget.
To make a contribution, call Gavin at (330) 399-4621 or send a check to WLR, P.O. Box 3131, Warren 44485.
"It was a season I was proud to be a part of," Gavin said. "It builds self-esteem, character and gives kids a chance to get out of their different environments."
Atty. Gilbert Rucker III is a trustee with the Raiders. His sons Tyler and Antoine play for Raiders teams, and his daughter, Brianne, is a cheerleader.
This was the first year Rucker was involved, and he's impressed with the coaching and athleticism displayed on the field.
Character goals: The organization promotes discipline, strengthens character and inspires players to achieve excellence, Rucker said, adding that the teams deserved to win this year because they practiced hard, sometimes two hours a day, five days a week.
"It's a great feat that these children came together and desired something so much that they went out and just did it."
Patterson said WLR officials tried to institute a program in which players would take computer classes in labs run by Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority.
They found the program is available only to families who live there, so coaches and organizers stress academics and responsibility in other ways.
Players and cheerleaders are routinely asked to provide their report cards, and coaches try to keep in contact with parents to see how things are going.
Patterson is also a coach and father to three WLR players -- Trae Robinson and Rafael and Greg Patterson.
Doing right thing: He tries to instill in his players the same thing he's been telling his sons since they were young -- that decisions and consequences affect outcomes.
"Raider football is about doing things right all the time," he said.