To parents and kids who know her through the Bartlett Hawks youth football league and poms team, Jennifer Kmiecik is more than just an enthusiastic supporter for her 9- and 10-year-old sons.
"Jennifer is the key mom for everyone," said fellow football mom Vanessa DeFina, noting that Kmiecik has taken on just about every responsibility she can with the organization, from fundraising and serving on the board to coaching poms and leading team moms. "She's very dedicated."
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Tonight, Kmiecik will receive a $1,000 check at a private tailgate party in Chicago before the Bears game as a prize for winning an Inspire Greatness award from USA Football and Courtyard Marriott. The award recognizes 10 outstanding coaches, parents or volunteers from youth football programs nationwide for their hard work and dedication.
DeFina said when she heard about the contest, a few people in the tight-knit Bartlett Hawks organization came to mind. But then she thought of Kmiecik and realized she deserved a chance to be recognized.
"She works really hard and she does it without bringing a lot of attention to herself. I thought, how perfect to nominate her," DeFina said, adding that many other families she told about the contest were quick to nominate Kmiecik too.
Kmiecik said she was shocked and honored to hear she won the award and thrilled that the money will be going toward helmets, pads and other safety equipment.
"This will help tremendously," she said, noting that Bartlett Hawks is a nonprofit organization.
When Kmiecik got involved with the Bartlett Hawks in 2007, her responsibilities were minimal at first, as she took on the role of team mom for one of her boy's football teams.
"It just kind of escalated from there," she said, noting that she soon started compiling minutes for the organization's board meetings and coordinating registration for more than 100 Bartlett Hawks participants.
She also decided to take on the role of leading the organization's poms team, even though she doesn't have any daughters.
"The head coach needed to leave and we didn't have anybody (as a replacement), so I just decided to try it out," she said with a laugh. "Having two boys, I love working with the girls for a change."
Kmiecik humbly estimates she dedicates about 10 to 15 hours of her time each week to the Bartlett Hawks.
But DeFina said Kmiecik does much more than that, considering she attends practices three nights a week, helps set up and break down about eight games a week, runs poms on Saturday and Sunday game days, sends emails to parents two to three times a week and regularly communicates with coaches.
"You never see frustration on her face. She's always smiling," DeFina said, adding that Kmiecik has encouraged her whole family to get involved in the league too, with her brothers now serving as volunteer coaches and her parents coming out to every game.
Kmiecik said she takes on so many responsibilities because she loves seeing the kids have fun while being part of a group of tight-knit families.
"We're all very close," she said. "It's really just all about the kids."