Bartlett Hawks Youth Football mom honored with grant
By Romi Herron For Sun-Times Media October 21, 2013 1:40PM
Jennifer Kmiecik (center, back row) of Bartlett is shown with her sons Brandon and Michael; former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher; and Janis Milham, vice president and global brand manager for Courtyard Marriott. | Submitted
Updated: November 23, 2013 6:13AM
BARTLETT — Her sons fell in love with football ever since they experienced the flag version of it, according to Bartlett mom Jennifer Kmiecik, who recently was honored by Courtyard by Marriott’s Inspire Greatness program and USA Football with a $1,000 grant, and a special introduction with former Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher.
“We’ve always been football fans,” said Kmiecik of sons Brandon, 9; Michael, 10; and husband, Mike.
Not only has the couple volunteered with Bartlett Hawks Youth Football over the past several years, they also enjoy attending local games for the close seating options the stadiums offer, unlike professional arenas.
“It’s more high school games that we enjoy,” she said. “We go to Bartlett High School and Glenbard North High School football games. With (our sons) being so young, they can actually see the game.”
In cooperation with USA Football — an independent nonprofit that is the official youth football development partner of the NFL — Courtyard by Marriott acknowledges 10 youth league participants and volunteers with $1,000 grants for equipment that promote player safety. Kmiecik said she was nominated by families of the Bartlett Hawks players and that her involvement is pretty much a full-time commitment.
“I’m a team mom for my sons’ teams, and I also am part of our board, director of team moms, director of poms, registrar, and a little bit of everything,” she said. “Including practices, it could be 30 to 40 (hours) per week for both the football side and poms side.”
Kmiecik, who became involved seven years ago when her sons joined the league, said she’s outgoing, so the social contact is an enjoyable part of her role. But it does have its challenges, too.
“Communicating between the league and the parents has probably been the most challenging,” she said. “We try to keep the communication going about the fundraising, our practices and our games. We have seven teams, and we can have seven going in different directions.”
Her husband was an assistant coach in previous years.
Although volunteering is time-consuming, Kmiecik said her dedication gets her past the challenges.
“I really believe in this league,” she said, noting Bartlett Hawks have three teams heading to the playoffs. The season ends in mid-November; and in January, the league starts preparation for the next season.
Earlier this month, Kmiecik and her sons met Urlacher at the Bears/New York Giants game, in an awards ceremony sponsored by Courtyard by Marriott and the USA Football program. She encourages families to attend a league game and emphasized the safety focus it offers.
“What’s most important is the fundamentals. A lot of parents are concerned about safety,” she said. “There are classes out there that are part of the league for parents to learn about safety.”
Participation is $325 per year, per player, including equipment, she said.
More information about USA Football and its involvement in youth, high school and other amateur football players is available at www.usafootball.com. The Bartlett Hawks website is www.bartletthawksyouthfootball.com.