BELL GARDENS, Calif. (FOX 11) - The hunt is on for someone who stole $50,000 dollars worth of equipment from a non-profit youth football club.
13-year-old Matthew Olague hopes to play center for the Chargers one day. But right now, he and his team are just trying to figure out how to practice without their proper equipment.
“Whoever you are, you should feel ashamed because you did steal from children and hard-working parents,” said Matthew.
The youth football club practices and plays their home games at Bell Garden High School. They store their football equipment in a shipping container behind the football field.
On Monday, someone cut the padlock and stole the team’s helmets, pads, shields, tackling dummies, the team’s audio equipment and PA system for games, even the team’s Gatorade and soda and crock pots they use to make nacho cheese on game-days.
“Everybody who volunteers with our program, we put in our heart and soul,” said Matthew’s mom, Angela Olague, who volunteers as a board member for the team. “People think football is in the fall. We’ve been at this since February, raising funds, doing practices for the kids, getting them involved. It never ends. And whoever did it, took that from us. It’s such a shame.”
The Bell Garden Lancers, ages 5-14, have to maintain a 2.0 GPA to play and the children are rewarded for making honors. Parents say football teaches the kids teamwork, discipline and leadership and the team becomes a family. Now the Lancers are forced to start from scratch, but they’re determined to do so with their chins up.
“Just like a problem, it comes and goes. Once we get this figured out, it’s in the past and we’ll move forward,” said Matthew.
Police have not yet found any surveillance video, but they are investigating pawn shops, places online for selling football equipment and the high-priced items that may be trackable.
“There are a couple crimes that really make people mad, and it’s when people steal from kids, young kids especially, and when they steal from our elderly population,” said Bell Gardens Police Chief Scott Fairfield. “Hopefully someone with a conscious out there or these guys will be out there bragging, and somebody will step forward, give us a clue and hopefully get the gear back, but more importantly get these people and put them in jail.”
The Lancers’ season starts July 22. The team’s board of directors has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for new equipment.