If the North Philadelphia Blackhawks, the 2010 Pop Warner National Champions, are a Cinderella story, then Mayor Nutter must be the team's Prince Charming.
The week before the 120-pound Blackhawks - along with the 160-pound Frankford Chargers - were to leave for the Pee Wee tournament at Walt Disney World, there was a fear that financial woes would keep the two teams home.
Nutter, getting wind of the teams' problems, reached out to six local companies and organizations, and gathered the $26,500 needed to cover the expenses. The Blackhawks took full advantage, winning the championship on Saturday, 24-20; the Chargers lost in the midget semifinals, 32-13.
Nutter greeted the Blackhawks at Philadelphia International Airport yesterday when the team returned with the hardware.
"The champs are here," coach Derrick Williams said as the team made its way through the terminal, holding the trophy.
"Best in the world!" he said. "Feels great. The city put a lot into us, and we didn't want to let them down."
Nutter was all smiles standing alongside the champs. "We are so proud of these young people," Nutter said. "Philly is a big sports town . . . and we wanted to focus on these young people, not just because they are darn good athletes, but because they are good students and we wanted to give them their props."
There were 64 teams in four age/weight ranges competing for the national title at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Blackhawks, a team that includes 25 boys aged 10 to 12, and seven volunteer coaches, won two qualifying games before reaching and winning the Division I Pee Wee National Championship, defeating the Sweetwater Hawks, of Jacksonville, Fla.
"We talked to the team the night before - telling them they are doing this for the city, their families, for themselves - and they pulled it out," said Keom Savoy, 29, the team's defensive coordinator and a former player.
The victory was a form of redemption for these players. They lost in the second round last year as a 105-pound Jr. Pee Wee team.
AAmir Brown, who celebrated his 13th birthday yesterday, was a big part of the championship game as running back and wide receiver, catching a game-changing touchdown pass.
"It was good," Brown said with a smile, adding how thankful he was for Nutter's help. The Blackhawk coaches and players were ecstatic for the funds Nutter was able to raise in such a short amount of time, capping off their Cinderella story. "I knew what I needed to do," Nutter said. "I think everyone earned the right to go, and we weren't going to let money get in the way."