TURLOCK — Lots of people around town express pride in Colin Kaepernick. But folks at Westside Ministries feel a special kinship with the Pitman High star, who is about to lead the San Francisco 49ers into the Super Bowl against the Baltimore Ravens.
"Lots of our kids played football with Colin," said JoLynn DiGrazia, Westside's director. Her daughter cheered for Kaepernick's youth team. So when Kaepernick got his first pro start against the Chicago Bears in November, Westside Ministries, a nonprofit group aimed at serving low-income families, watched.
"We played the game for the kids at Westside while they were eating dinner," DiGrazia said. And the idea for a T-shirt was born.
Westside staff created the red shirts, which read "KAPTOWN 209" and have Turlock statistics in gold lettering. Originally, they were intended for the children who frequent Westside Ministries, but soon it seemed like everyone wanted one.
And just like that, a fund-raiser was born. Staff members have been selling the shirts at Westside Ministries and will sell them today at a booth outside CostLess Market on Main Street. Prices are $15 for kids' T-shirts, $25 for kids' sweat shirts, $20 for adult tees and $40 for adult hoodies.
"My son played Pop Warner football with Colin," said Oscar Avila, CostLess store manager. He has a larger-than-life photo of Kaepernick hanging in the store, seemingly ready to rush at customers with the football. "We're all proud of Colin around here."
The T-shirts, as well as hooded sweat shirts, have been brisk sellers.
"We've already sold out twice and had to order more," DiGrazia said.
Among Friday's customers was longtime Turlocker Jerry Dickey. "This is unusual," he said. "I want to keep it for nostalgia."
Twins Yvonne and Anna Gutierrez, 46, have been longtime 49ers fans and also bought shirts. Decked head to toe literally, they even had 49ers shoes in San Francisco gear, the twins said this year's run through the playoffs is even more exciting because of the Turlock connection to Kaepernick.
"We're loving it," Yvonne Gutierrez said.
Money raised will go toward scholarships for low-income children to play in Turlock's youth football program. Maybe among them will be another Colin Kaepernick in the making.
"We want these kids to have great role models, and Colin is a great role model," DiGrazia said. "He didn't give up on his dreams."
Shirts will be sold today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at CostLess Market, 258 W. Main St., and are available Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Westside Ministries, 952 Columbia St.
Bee Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.