Youth Football and Cheerleading

Youth football and cheer league starts 'Tackling Bullying' program

2014-06-13T17:00:00Z 2014-06-13T18:38:15Z Youth football and cheer league starts 'Tackling Bullying' programJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | "I'm just hoping they'll make me a little more buff," Paul Cuellar said of his pending illustrated depiction.

That could also depend on how well he's colored in between the lines.

Cuellar is the president of the NWI Iron Eagles, something he started last year with Dewayne Bailey Jr. to cater to families with little means to spare to enroll their children in a football and cheerleading league.

"We learned a lot from that first year," said Cuellar, a former semi-pro football player. "Last year, we didn't have much time to plan because we started this on a whim.

"Now, we have more things already in place."

To frame a theme for the second season, the Iron Eagles have implemented a "Tackling Bullying" program to help raise greater awareness to a topic that continues to addle many youths.

"Problem with most kids who are bullied or see someone else being bullied is that they don't want to tell anyone and be labeled as a tattletale," Cuellar said. "But we want to change that mind-set by suggesting that you may be helping that bully, who may desperately need it.

"If someone's a bully and is mean to everyone, there may be something wrong at home or somewhere else. So if you bring what he or she is doing to the attention of an adult, you might be doing that kid a big favor by getting it out in the open where it can be better dealt with."

With help of Evil Ways Tattoos in East Chicago, Cuellar is composing a "Tackling Bullying" coloring book series that will feature cartoon versions of himself, fellow Iron Eagle coaches and some of the league's children.

"Each book will have a different storyline," Cuellar said of the series that will employ re-appearing antagonist "Bruno the Bully".

"For the first book, Bruno will be cutting in line," Cuellar said. "For the next book, Bruno will act out in another bullying way."

This Iron Eagles season will be graced an official mascot: Ekko the Eagle, who made his debut appearance at Brentwood Assisted Living in Hobart during Mother's Day when Iron Eagle players, cheerleaders and coaches handed out flowers to all the resident mothers.

Like last year before every weekend of games at Lake Station High School, the Iron Eagles will honor local veterans, first responders and charitable organizations.

Cuellar said that the league is on the verge of paying off a substantial debt it incurred while providing free-of-charge football and cheerleading during its inaugural season.

"We're holding more fundraisers this year, and that should help," Cuellar said, "and we expect our children and families to help out with these fundraisers.

"Just because it's free doesn't mean things are just going to be given to you. You've got to work for everything, and that's a message we hope our kids will learn."

Like last year, the league will honor participant students who attain straight-A report cards.

"This year, we're also honoring students with perfect attendance," Cuellar said.

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