Local News

Youth football season at risk because of thefts

SEBRING - More than 100 Sebring youth looking forward to playing football this coming season may not have the opportunity in the wake of the theft of thousands of dollars of equipment from the Sebring Sports Association. Marilyn McNellis, president of the Sebring Youth Sports, said the thefts last weekend occurred less than two months before the season begins with a jamboree in Haines City on Aug. 3 and a couple of weeks before the youth begin gearing up. The thefts occurred last weekend at the Highlands County Sports Complex. Nell Hays, public information officer for the Highlands County Sheriff's Office, said that no arrests have been made and the investigation is continuing. McNellis said the burglars stole or damaged more than $13,000 of equipment, including helmets, shoulder pads and jerseys.
Unless these items can replaced, it will be the first time in 50 years, there's been no football season for the program, McNellis said. She said the football program has five teams and about 120 participants, ages 9 to 14. The children need to be in gear as of July 8, she said. "I have a lot of new kids coming who have never been in gear," she said. None of the families can afford gear for their children, she said. Staff and coaches, all of whom are volunteer, spend their own money to take the participants places, she said. She said many of the kids live near drug-infested areas. "We try our best to get them out of there," she said. Anyone wanting to donate to help replace the equipment can call McNellis at (863) 633-9998, jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834