UCF Greeks raise funds for Sanford teen who lost family
"He needs to know that after losing virtually everyone he still has someone."
That was the response given by Chris Lawrence, president of Blue Chip Athletics, which partnered with a group of UCF students to help a Sanford teenager plagued by loss.
The Iota Rho chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., partnered with Blue Chip Athletics, a youth athletic nonprofit organization, to put together a charity flag football game to benefit a young boy who lost his mother and sister within the last two years.
D'Angelo, 17, lost his older sister in 2012 to cancer, and then in late July found his mother dead. D'Angelo has played in the Blue Chip Athletics football league for almost four years and built a relationship with Lawrence and the Sigmas, who officiate the games. Lawrence called Tim Nightingale, a Sigma and UCF alumnus, the day after D'Angelo's most recent loss, searching for help for the rising high-school junior.
"It was a sad conversation. He called me crying," Nightingale said. "[D'Angelo] had no money for school and when [Lawrence] called me, [D'Angelo] had school about a week later. He knew I had a lot of connections on campus so he was reaching out to me trying to get the word out … I told him we would handle it."
The chapter took to social media to reach out to anyone who would be willing to donate to a GoFundMe account that would help the teen pay for school supplies and stay afloat after his loss. After a postitve response, Mark Atkins, senior electrical engineering major and a Sigma, along with Nightingale, said they got the idea to have a charity football flag for D'Angelo's benefit.
Lawrence, who has the closest relationship with D'Angelo, met the boy four years ago when his mother brought him there for a positive program. During that course, their relationship began and since then has grown passed a mentorship. In his words, he and his wife have done "all but adopt" him. He said with the long-lasting working relationship he's had with Iota Rho, he figured they may be able to help.
"I reached out to them because many of them had gone through similar experiences in their life," Lawrence said. "They pooled their support with what they've already given the child [D'Angelo] to make sure he doesn't falter in between the cracks because it would be so easy for him to do that."
Lawrence said D'Angelo comes from a difficult part of Sanford but he's a tough kid who has gone against the grain. Blue Chip has gotten him tutors for school, which he's used over the years, and Lawrence sees how much he wants to succeed.
"This child is different. He really and truly is," Lawrence said. "He's not a kid who's picked a bad path; he's just been dealt a bad hand."
Blue Chip Athletics has reached out to Warren Sapp as well as players from the Orlando Predators and Orlando Magic, all of whom seem to have interest in helping support the cause. Nightingale said that he and other Sigmas hope to be able to start a foundation for children who lose their parents before college. Lawrence wants to raise enough money to start a secured account for D'Angelo's immediate needs.
"The No. 1 goal is to show him the amount of support he has. Whether he knows the people or not, it's just knowing they're in his corner. That's important," Lawrence emphasized.
D'Angelo plays flag football with Blue Chip but really enjoys basketball most. Nightingale and Lawrence spoke highly of his talent and athletism, citing that his flag football team makes it to the championship game often. D'Angelo hopes to go to the University of Florida for college.
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