When the Richmond Hill Raiders 13-and-under select travel soccer team were looking to raise money for their program, they got help from an unlikely source: an NFL football player.
When Devon Duijndam and Joshua Mooney moved to Richmond Hill from Holland this past year, they tried out and qualified for the Raiders.
They saw where the team was in need of funds for equipment, travel expenses and such. Duijndam reacted by calling his famous uncle, Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Jacob Bell.
Bell rallied his fellow Titans together and told them his nephew’s team needed a helping hand. The end result was Bell passing around an NFL football for every single player to autograph.
Bell mailed the football back to Duijndam in order to help his team.
"I was just glad to help my nephew," Bell said. "I’m always looking out for him. The guys on the team get hit up for autographs all the time, but they always make it a point to do it when it’s for a good cause. The Raiders program is a good opportunity for Devon and other kids in his area to excel in sports which is great thing."
Bell said he feels blessed to be playing pro ball and is happy to help out the local team. The Titans have been having a good season with a 6-5 record. They hit a slump recently by losing three games in a row, but Bell said he and the team are confident to turn things around this Sunday as they go up against the Houston Texans.
"We’ve beat them once already," he said. "And we’ve still got five more games to go. It should be a good year for the Titans."
All the boys on the Raiders team have been going around the community selling raffle tickets for $5 each.
It will all come to a head this coming Sunday at the Richmond Hill family sports pub Beef ‘O’ Brady’s.
During halftime of the Tennessee-Houston game, the Richmond Hill Raiders will draw the winning raffle ticket. The game starts at 1 p.m., but the restaurant has scheduled a full day of NFL festivities. This is slated to include football trivia and other prizes.
"We might have been able to raise more money by placing the ball on eBay where similar items are selling for a thousand dollars, but we wanted to do something more community-based that the kids could participate in," Duijndam's mother Rachael Bell said. "Also, one dollar of each ticket sold will go toward breast cancer research. A friend of ours is a cancer survivor, so we decided to direct some of the proceeds toward finding a cure."
Raiders coach Daryl Snider said all the players are enthusiastic about the raffle.
"It’s exciting for the boys to be able to watch someone on TV who is not only an uncle to one of the players, but a supporter of their soccer team," he said. "This should really help the team."
This is the first year the Raiders have reached the Select level and this year also marks Snider’s debut with the team. Snider, who has coached soccer for 15 years, has coached the Richmond
Hill Comets Select girls team which included many of the RHHS players. Snider is widely considered as one of the reasons the RHHS girls team have performed so well by offering a solid training program with the Comets.
"Coach Snider has been a powerful ally in our quest to develop younger players into top flight competitors on the field and in life," RHHS girls coach Steve Kollman said. "His willingness to take groups of players from the U-10 league and train them until they enter high school has been a driving force in the success the RHHS girls and boys soccer programs have enjoyed the past four to six years."
When his daughter and Comet player Allison Snider graduated, he decided to move on the boys Raiders program. They just completed their first fall season together in impressive style.
With a record of 7 wins, 1 loss and 2 ties, the team narrowly missed a first place spot in their division, settling instead for third.
"This is really impressive seeing how a lot of games are in Atlanta and western Georgia which has some stiff competition," Snider said. "I’m really proud of these boys and the outlook is really bright for this program."
Next up for the team is the Coastal Georgia tournament on Jan. 25 which features some of the top Select teams in the country.
After that, preparation begins for the spring season.