CHARLOTTE, N.C. – “It’s hard to explain that to a child,” says George Griffin. He had to tell the 5 to 14-year-old kids who play sports for the Derita Athletic Association that new bleachers, some not even out of the box they were shipped in, had been stolen. He exclaims, “Stolen before we even got them set up, yes!”
Blocking sleds were also stolen, and a roll up window at the concession stand was pried open and broken into. Whoever got inside sprayed sodas all over the walls and ceiling.
The thieves managed to not only get those big blocking sleds and bleachers off the field, but also through or over security gates, which had been installed to prevent theft.
“I couldn’t understand it. Why are you gonna come and take something from the kids,” wonders Randy Ingram. He has been a part of the non-profit since he was in 5th grade. Now, at age 49, he volunteers his time as a coach and says, “I got five boys. This is all I do. This is what I do.”
His commitment speaks to the importance of this football field. It gives kids that might otherwise slip through the cracks something to be a part of. Two big companies, Lowe’s and the Carolina Panthers, saw the importance too, and have donated money and equipment, including those stolen bleachers, worth more than $20,000.
The bleachers were stolen in July. Football season is here. And Griffin is hoping for another show of generosity from the community. He says, “I can’t express our gratitude for everything they’ve done so far.”
Griffin thinks the bleachers and blocking sleds were stolen to be sold as scrap metal. If they can get new bleachers, they’ll sink them into the ground with cement and chains.