Community Efforts Save Youth Football Season after Major Theft

Saturday, August 31, 2019

BELL GARDENS – In an event today, community partners presented $51,000 to save the Bell Garden Youth Football and Cheer program after a major theft of their equipment occurred in early July. The season’s Opening Day Celebration included check presentations and new equipment donations made possible by Bell Gardens Police Department, the community, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, the Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) and Supervisor Hilda Solis.

Bell Gardens Chief of Police, Scott Fairfield heard about the theft and jumpstarted a social media challenge with local business owners and raised nearly $7,000 to contribute to the team with donations still coming in. That campaign caught local media’s attention and a community effort was galvanized. 

“This is an incredible act of generosity coming from our entire community, it’s inspiring,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-58). “Growing up and living in Bell Gardens, I know firsthand how hard our families work to provide basic needs for our kids and how heartbreaking this theft was to them.  I’m fortunate to be in a position to act when I saw the need and everyone came together in support.  We all know programs like this are exactly what communities like ours needs.”

Assemblymember Garcia reached out to the Los Angeles Rams and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) and asked them for donations.  Assemblymember Garcia kicked in $5,000.  Supervisor Hilda Solis donated another $5,000 and reached out to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers and Rams donated $15,000 and took the lead on collecting donations of used youth football equipment from the community. The CCPOA donated another $10,000. The Bell Gardens Youth Football and Cheer Program launched a GoFundMe page where they raised nearly $8,000 in donations large and small from every corner of the working-class community.

“This is what community does,” added Garcia.  “Everyone who could help, helped.  And these kids will know with certainty that the whole community, with as little or as much as they have, has their backs and wants to see them have these opportunities.  That’s the best thing we can give them.” 

What others are saying:

Lester Morals, President of the Bell Gardens Youth Football and Cheer Program said, “There will be obstacles, there will be doubters, but with hard work there are no limits.”

“The Bell Gardens Youth Football and Cheer program, among others, teach kids so much about life through teamwork and discipline while bringing families together. This situation is a great lesson for all of us. This community- and those around us- rallied to turn this heartless act into an opportunity to do better for our kids,” said Bell Gardens Police Chief Fairfield.

“The CCPOA is proud to help the Bell Garden Youth Football and Cheer program. We are strong supporters of youth athletics and believe in the positive affects it has on young lives,” said CCPOA State President Kurt Stoetzl.

“The Chargers are proud to help the Bell Gardens Youth Football & Cheer program,” said LA Chargers Community Relations Manager Chase Hartman.  “It has been inspiring to watch the players, coaches, and the community pull together in the wake of this terrible situation. The entire Chargers organization is rooting for them on and off the field.”

“What happened to the Bell Gardens Youth Football and Cheer program is very unfortunate,” said Rams Manager of Community Affairs & Engagement, Johnathan Franklin. “However, it’s incredible to see local community members and organizations come together to rally around these youth as they prepare to have a successful season both on and off the field. The Los Angeles Rams have always been committed to serving the community and focusing their resources to engage and impact fellow Angelenos who might be in need of support.”

“To millions of Americans, football is their favorite sport and a favorite pastime. For the Bell Gardens Youth Football team, football is more than a sport: it is family,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “This program has helped them value camaraderie, shape them into great sportsmen, and demonstrate high integrity. Programs like these empower our youth to ignite their innate potential and achieve their ultimate goals. It is sad that someone tried to take this experience away from our youth by stealing their gear, but I’m proud to have helped mitigate the theft by providing a $5,000 sponsorship for new equipment. Thank you to all of our partners, including Assemblymember Garcia, the Los Angeles Chargers, and Big 5 for playing your part to make sure our Bell Gardens Youth Football team can play theirs.”

The 58th Assembly District includes the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Downey, Norwalk, Bellflower, Cerritos and Artesia.

CONTACT: Teala Schaff, (916) 319-2058