WW South’s Matt Alley lends expertise to great causeDan Vitale advances the ball for Wheaton Warrenville South. Pursued Michael Swider (5) and Luke Sahly. Patrick Gleason ~ For the Sun-Times
Updated: April 16, 2012 12:34PM
It wasn’t that long ago that Dan Vitale was a little kid going to Wheaton Warrenville South football games and looking up to the Tigers’ stars.
‘‘I remember watching the Danny Dierking era and everything like that, wishing I could be like him,’’ Vitale said.
Now Vitale is the latest WW South standout, a hard-nosed runner who rallied a young team to another memorable playoff run last fall. He’s heading to Northwestern to play for the Wildcats, but before leaving town he has something else to prove: That athletes can make the world a better place.
Vitale will be one of the players and coaches lending their time to a football clinic scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, June 9, at WW South. The event is the brainchild of Matt Alley, a former Tigers player who’s now an assistant coach for them.
It will serve as a fund-raiser for Africa New Life, a charitable organization based in Portland, Ore., that is dedicated to reducing poverty and increasing educational opportunities in Rwanda.
Alley became aware of the group through his church, Four Corners Community Church in Darien, which works with Africa New Life. After learning of the good work the group has done, Alley decided he wanted to help in some way.
Meanwhile, Alley had been getting requests from parents of youth football players to work with their sons. No surprise there because Alley — who coaches WW South’s quarterbacks — has tutored Reilly O’Toole, the 2010 Sun-Times Player of the Year, who plays at Illinois.
But Alley had always resisted the pleas, saying he was too busy with his work in commercial real estate.
Then he got acquainted with Africa New Life and realized his talent — coaching football — could be used for more than just winning games for WW South.
‘‘If I could get local coaches and collegiate players [to help], then we could raise a lot of money,” Alley said.
He wasn’t sure how the idea would go over, especially because his contacts don’t extend much beyond Wheaton and Glen Ellyn. But Alley has found many in those communities willing to help and willing to spread the word throughout the Chicago area.
Now, it’s looking as if about 15 high school coaches and at least five current or incoming college players will be among the instructors. Alley is asking for a minimum donation of $40 with the checks payable to Africa New Life.
He’s insistent that all money raised will go directly to the charity, whose goal is to build a boys dormitory at its middle school in Kayonza, Rwanda. The cost is estimated at $140,000, of which about $100,000 has been raised. Alley’s best-case scenario is for the clinic to cover the remaining $40,000.
The community has stepped up to help. District 200 has waived facility costs, and Four Corners Community Church has picked up the cost of insuring the event. Alley is working with local companies to cover other expenses, including the production of T-shirts for the campers.
Vitale, for his part, is glad to help.
“Coach Alley was great to me,” he said. “He wants to make a difference; this is a great way to do it.”
And Vitale hopes he can teach the kids attending — the event is open to incoming third- through ninth-graders — about more than how to make a cut or execute a block.
“I want to show them that it’s not only about football,” Vitale said. “It’s about being a good person.”
For more information on the Youth Football Clinic for Africa New Life, go to http://tiny.cc/n5pncw or email Matt Alley at firstname.lastname@example.org.