DOVER, Fla. - A youth football team in eastern Hillsborough County was the victim of a burglary that left them without $7500 worth of food and equipment.
The Dover Patriots, a group that offers football and cheerleading for 175 kids aged four to 15, stored its equipment in county-owned buildings at Waller Park. A county employee notified the team that the building doors were open, and when team officers showed up, they discovered they had been robbed.
"It's horrible to me," said Dawn Pennachiette, the team's president.
"Everything that comes into this organization is donated or our volunteers bust their butt throughout the offseason. And they've stolen from these kids," Pennachiette said.
Items stolen included new cleats and cheerleader shoes, cases of drinks and concessions, blank t-shirts, and team equipment. Even some mouthpieces for the players vanished.
"I want somebody to say something, because these kids don't deserve this," Pennachiette said.
The team said raising money during the offseason is geared exclusively to buying equipment and supplies for the upcoming season, and until the games begin, fundraising is difficult during the summer. The kids don't start playing football for several weeks.
When word spread about the burglary, many parents were upset. Some of the funds were used to provide scholarships to kids who can't afford to join.
But despite the despair, one parent came forward with a gift that brightened spirits.
A $500 donation was given to the team just hours after the break-in was discovered.
"It was very emotional," said Nicole Hott, who accepted the donation check. "Somebody that would steal from kids is just awful," she said. But Hott said the donation had some of the volunteers tearing up.
"It's going to help tremendously and it touches our heart very much."
For information on how to help the Dover Patriots, you can email Dawn Pennachiette at firstname.lastname@example.org .