Youth football and cheer in Pico Rivera are back

After a yearlong hiatus, Dons and Donnas keep kids busy and social

Football players run through a play during practice at Rivera Park (Eileen Osuna_UT)

As Pico Rivera resident Cynthia Carlos sat between two fields at Rivera Park watching her children, a son in football and daughter in cheer practice, she thought about how good it felt to be back.

Their sports program, the Pico Rivera Dons and Donnas, shut down for about a year during the pandemic.

“They’re fighting for us to keep the program going, putting in rules in and regulations and stuff because of COVID,” Carlos said. “I love the fact that they’re trying to keep things going normally for the kids.”

Other than the pandemic-related hiatus, Carlos’ 12-year-old has played football every year since he was 7-years-old and now her daughter has joined the Dons and Donnas family through cheer.

“The kids need socialization, they need activities, they need to do what they love,” Carlos said. “It’s important for them to meet new friends and do what they love.”

The Dons and Donnas, founded in the 1970s, is open to children between the ages of 6 to 14 in Pico Rivera and other cities that don’t have a San Gabriel Valley Jr. All-American Franchise

While families and coaches are glad to be back, they’re still worried about COVID-19.

“I just feel that, you know, we work really hard for our routines and put a lot of effort and money and fundraising, and it’s just a fear that it would be for nothing if it gets shut down,” Donnas cheer coach Gina Salinas said.

Salinas also said it’s been difficult raising funds for the program. Even with the food nights, clothes drives and other fundraisers they hold, it’s still not enough. 

“It’s expensive, especially cheer, with uniforms, registration and competition fees,” Salinas said. “The parents have to do it on their own and right now with parents financially struggling it’s been rough.”

Cheerleading fees are about $300 and football fees range from $185 for flag football to $200 for tackle football, according to a post on the organization’s Facebook page.

 Long time Pico Rivera resident Terry Palazuelos, who has her son in football, said the program “keeps them [children] out of trouble, keeps them straight.” 

Salinas has been coaching for 13 years, a position which she volunteers for, and does it because she loves giving back to the community and kids.

“It teaches the kids confidence, you know, to strive for goals. I see the development when they start, how they grow,” Salinas said. “It’s important for them for bonds, for friendships and for each other to just gain friends.”