Community steps up to help Boys and Girls Club hold annual fundraiser after vandals tried to ruin it

Vandals caused $27,000 in damages

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - The Citrus Center Boys and Girls Clubs is holding its annual barbecue fundraiser Saturday, just a few months after vandals nearly ruined it.

Back in October, someone tore up the electrical boxes on the event grounds, cut some wires, and stole the copper ones.

"They probably got $200 out of the wire, and it cost us $27,000," said Walt Hall, director of the organization.

After the brazen theft, no one knew for sure if the the Smoke on the Water BBQ Championships was even feasible.

"The event is actually what kept our doors open," Hall said. "I've told people a lot, without this event, at least one or two of our clubs would have closed."

The nonprofit organization oversees three Boys and Girls clubs in eastern Polk County.

After ABC Action News aired a story on the setback, the community stepped up.  Donations came in left and right from other organizations and total strangers.

Krieger Electric came back on Thursday to double check the electrical system they repaired. The system is now protected under a lock and key.

The more than 80 barbecue teams now have a new motivation, as 20-percent of what they sell benefits the club.

"We're going to try to sell a hell of a lot more food this time to help make up for that," said Bracken Smith, founder of Kick Yo' Butt BBQ.

On Saturday, once all the smokers start and the good eating begins, the children at the Boys and Girls Club may just stumble upon a life-lesson in action.

"The only way the Boys and Girls Club and thinks like us exist is because there are good people in the world who care about our kids," Hall said.


The Smoke on the Water Barbecue Championships takes place on Saturday from 10-5:30pm.

It's held behind the Citrus Center Boys and Girls Clubs in Winter Haven at 2400 Havendale Blvd.

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