North Shore Raiders president cheers season opener

By day, Dan Featherson, a 1990 Evanston Township High School graduate, is an ETHS safety officer and a Lincolnwood realtor. But this last weekend, he was known as president of the Evanston North Shore Raiders youth feeder football program, which he founded in 2011.

This year, the club has nearly 80 participants, including 15 cheerleaders. The season opener was Aug. 31 at Murney Lazier Field, also known as Memorial Stadium.

He and his wife Jenean have two children, Xyla, 8, a Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies third-grader and Xayvion, 6, a Bessie Rhodes first-grader and Raiders player.

Dan has a social science degree and attended the University of St. Louis where he played basketball. He is licensed as a real estate broker and specializes in investment properties, like bankruptcy residential. The North Shore Raiders, formerly the Skokie Raiders, has a goal of redefining youth athletics while promoting a competitive but positive outlook in the classroom and on the playing field. North Shore Raiders is a travel youth football and cheer program with a goal of building well-rounded athletes before they reach ETHS.

Featherson is proud that Raiders coaches are trained volunteers. Safety is paramount and injury prevention is a priority. Concussion education is vital. Featherson invites inquiries at eyaaraiders@gmail.com and danfeatherson@gmail.com. Visit www.northshoreraiders.com.

Q. What inspired you to start the North Shore Raiders?

A. When I moved back to Evanston, I noticed a lot of kids not doing anything, not involved with any sports at all. And I wanted to give them something where they could use the neighborhood, be visual and be doing something.

I always feel that people want to be a part of something no matter who they are. And I wanted to give something positive back because when I played sports, a lot of people did the same thing for me. They picked me up for rides. They took me all over.

I traveled all over the Midwest and country playing basketball and football and I wanted to bring that back to the kids. I think the main thing with my program, it’s a travel program which means that we don’t just play in the local areas. We play all over the state. The kids get to travel, the kids get to see different places, and the kids get to kind of get that almost college-type of feel, but right here at home at 5 years old going all the way up to high school. So it’s something for them to really hold on to.

Q. How do you build character?

A. We don’t just stress football, we stress academics. We stress being role models. We stress being respectful. Discipline. All of the things that help make a well-rounded person. We also deal with some kids who might have issues. We treat them all the same. And they also get to be a part of something and they get treated with respect and they get to have fun. Nobody’s judging them. We are all the same.

That’s the kind of program that I’m trying to build here. It’s starting to gain momentum and I want to keep the momentum going and making sure the kids are having fun and that the kids are doing something other than something negative. And it’s a healthy way of living too (fitness, overall wellness).

Q. What do you think of Lazier Field?

A. Well, this field was basically built for the community. And it’s such a beautiful field with the lights, and it’s right in the middle of the 5th ward neighborhood, which gives the neighborhood, I think, a whole lot of pride too. I think they’re very proud that when people look, they say, “Wow, what a great field this is. Wow, I want to play on that field, or wow, I want to come watch a team on that field!” I think it just enhances the school, the neighborhood and the community.

You know, I just love it. It’s probably one of the best things that they did for the community and everybody wants to play on it. I love giving these young kids the opportunity to play on it because you never know if they’re going to play football in high school or anything, but they can say at a young age before they even get to the high schools is that, “I played on that field.” And I think that’s very important.

Q. What’s in that coach’s heart of yours?

A. My heart is really truly for the kids. I mean, a lot of people want to [volunteer] for the recognition. Really, that’s not my motivation at all. My motivation is really having kids come up and doing something positive with their lives and the community coming together because everybody gets something out of it. The parents get something out of it, they get to see their kids participating in something and that’s my goal. That’s my goal is to just have everybody warm and fuzzy and working together.

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