BELL GARDENS (CBSLA) — The Bell Gardens youth football team is supposed to play its first game in just a few weeks, but a weekend theft left the team with no equipment for the fast approaching season.
Police said someone broke into a storage shed just feet from where the team practices at Bell Garden High School over the weekend and stole tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of football equipment.
“It’s a devastating loss to a program that has to raise money every year to basically sustain itself,” Scott Fairfield, Bell Gardens police chief, said.
The boys, ages 5 to 14, are trying to stay positive, but they’re now practicing without helmets, shoulder pads and knee pads.
“It’s definitely heartbreaking,” Angela Olague, city athletic director, said. “Above anything else, it’s heartbreaking.”
Thomas Bracken, a 13-year-old who plays on the team, said it’s more than just football. He said being part of the team taught him how to take better care of himself and care for others.
“There’s 13- to 15-year-old kids here that just want to have fun,” he said. “If you’re stealing from that, then you need some higher life standards.”
Former player Juan Barajes has already stepped up, donating his own shoulder and knee pads to the team.
“This is the least I could do,” he said.
The team is now asking the community for donations. A GoFundMe page has been set up, and as of Wednesday morning had raised more than $2,500.