I just need to say, "Thank you." My little boy has been playing football since the age of 5 - when his little neck muscles could barely hold his head up wearing a helmet. Over the years, he has been through many changes, growing and becoming the person he is today. I am overwhelmed with the options he faces, never knowing how hard it might be to have so much available for his future. As hard as I tried over the 17 years of his life, nothing has impacted him more positively than his football family.
For every single one of you that encouraged, cheered, supported and helped him and every single teammate he ever had, thank you! As I considered how to write this, I realized that if I began naming all of those directly involved with Valparaiso youth through VHS Varsity my memory would fail and I would miss so many. I also realized there are so many more I never even knew about, in the parking lots, in his community. So, for every parent that learned where the "tailbone" pad goes, not same for protective cup, every Team Mom who truly cared for every one of her "players", every coach, student volunteer, faculty, and fan, my son is enjoying one of the most incredible times of his life.
Coaches, I do not even know where to begin. For all of you men and women who give so much of your life to the youth in your communities, you are the foundation our children develop from. As parents, we can rarely have the immediate impact on our children that a trusted and loved coach has on them. We have seen you cry for them, provide for them when no one was watching or knew, and give your life instruction to help them to build integrity, honor and service for others.
A "Thank you" is such an insignificant thing to return to you from a parent that hears everyday what you do for my son and his hundreds and hundreds of teammates over 12 years. For all of you players who shared your moms and dads with my son as they gave countless hours coaching and working for their teams, thank you. Your parents impacted every single athlete they ever interacted with forever. For all the wives and husbands who tolerated and enjoyed their spouse's involvement in youth athletics, you are appreciated. Every coach knows without the love and support of their own family, they would not get to coach at all. Your sacrifices and effort are and were required to allow our children to learn from the coach you supported. Valparaiso, what a community!
You might be shocked to know the impact seeing your online photos had on my son. His immediate reaction was to walk a little taller. After seeing so many photos, he paused and said, "You know, Dad, today is the last time we will ever get to practice on Viking Field. I am excited to practice at Lucas Oil, but nothing will ever be like our home." As he walked away, I easily sensed his sadness. Yet, I also know, without the love, real bonds he shares with his football family, he wouldn't even think this way.
So, thank you for hanging your signs, for painting our community green. Thank you for giving my son the most incredible life memories. As a man, I suspect he will share these with his own children someday. He will struggle to find any way he can to see his children grow, to feel amazing about themselves without ever losing the desire to take care of others. As a dad, I just needed to say, "Thank you." It would mean a great deal to me if you would share this message with every person who you know should read it. These statements are true in every community. I cannot recall ever feeling the level of appreciation that I do today for every single one of these very important people in my son's life. Thank you.
- Brian Bennett, father of Ayden Maverick Bennett, #64 - Valparaiso Vikings - the most powerful evidence my God loves me!.