When Mike began coaching Junior Football League games in 1972, money was tight. "We had our meetings on Adams Street, and they'd have to walk across the street to South Side Bank to sign a note to fund the season," Burns said.
The 55-year-old Washington native retired earlier this month as president of the JFL of Central Illinois. During his 15 years in that volunteer position, Burns added flag football and cheerleading, developed seven new JFL areas and increased total participation by I,500 for today's total of about 4,000.
Participation in JFL coaching clinics increased about six times, to around 600. And
the formerly cash-strapped organization had about $280,000 in the bank and an annual operating budget of nearly $500,000 by the time Burns retired.
"We had a bad reputation with a lot of high school coaches and officials, for good reason," Burns said. "We had some coaches out there who had no clue about youth sports. They were out there reliving their high school days. Now, high school coaches all welcome the JFL. We cleaned up a lot of things."
Burns is retired after working 30 years as a Caterpillar, Inc. assembly worker. Although he had no college degree or background in the field, Burns became adept enough to start his own fundraising business.
He is now retired from that job as well, in order to spend time with wife Crystal, daughters Kelley and Missi, stepsons Sean and Troy and three grandchildren.
But Burns still plans to help the JFL, remain president of the Old Timers Association - which raises $15,000 to $17,000 annually for youth sports and charities - and help a host of other causes.
"Anything I'm involved with, he's my first choice to add to the committee," said Old Timers treasurer Quent Yerby, the 1978 Neve Harms winner. "Everything Mike has ever done, he's never gotten paid. He won't accept anything - maybe a free lunch."