Wasco Bengals 50 years strong
Last updated 10/13/2023 at 8:12pm | View PDF
The Wasco Bengals Football and Cheer celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday. Over the years, the organization has served thousands of young people in Wasco, teaching them skills and instilling virtues to help them on and off the field.
Gonzalo Cruz is the league representative and president.
"We are a non-profit youth organization that works with football players and cheerleaders from ages six up to 14 years old. We practice the basic fundamentals, strategy, accountability and work ethic."
The season runs from August to mid-November. Games are played every Saturday in various locations throughout Kern County. This year, the organization supported 230 athletes.
"By giving them an opportunity to grow confidence and learn the importance of education. It teaches them you have to have knowledge in order to succeed."
He said the Wasco Bengals are like a family. "We try to be there for each other and are always there to pick them up. We teach that it's not an individual sport. We rely on each other to work as a team. We show them it's okay to ask for help when you need it."
Cruz added that the organization plays a vital role in the community. "Us being in a small community, there are not many activities for our youth. We can give young athletes the ability to learn a new sport they've never played before. Of the kids who have played, it gives them the chance to refine their skills and improve for when they go to high school."
He said he is excited about the 50 years and happy that the celebratory event brought out over 150 people, including Packer alums (the Bengals used to be called the Packers) and Bengal alums.
The best part for him was hearing their stories. "It showed us we are still doing a service for the community and that the goal they had when they first started has continued to live on and grow as each generation comes through our program," Cruz explained.
"Not many youth organizations can say they have successfully existed for over 50 years. We are part of a mission that has molded young athletes into respectable adults in our community, and that is extremely important for us."
Spirit of Excellence awards were presented to some of Bengal's previous presidents, including Jim Penner, Gary Earl, Tony Jameson, Marty Jones, Terry Clement, Scott Hight, Darin Fager, Mike Dobbs and longer-tenured coaches like Jose Robledo and Mike Lopez at the event.
There was a rib eye steak banquet with music and drinks and a silent auction with items donated by MV Autoworks, Ag Weld, Lavender Garden, Dolores Lopez, Cardenas Lux Crafts and Lets Event.
The event was in conjunction with the Wasco Elks. "They provided a space at their lodge for us. We couldn't have done it without them."
A highlight for Cruz was seeing all of the smiling faces and the fact that, for many, years had passed since seeing each other, allowing them to relive memories of the past.
"The event was a testament exemplifying how the Bengals continue to move in a positive direction and will continue for many more years to come."