By Tamas Mondovics
Twice within a month, coaches players and volunteers of the Brandon Lions Youth Football program had to contend with the reality that their park was the target of thieves and vandals causing property damage and the loss of equipment, costing the program more than $3,500. According to Hillsborough County detectives investigating each incident, the burglary occurred during Labor Day weekend.
Unknown suspects entered the E.L. Bing County Park, located at 7402 Taylor Rd. in Seffner, and targeted the office as well as a storage container belonging to the Brandon Lions Youth Football program. Besides stealing an air conditioning unit, the suspects also cut the pad lock to the storage container and removed 25 Riddell football helmets and eight Riddell shoulder pads, deputies said.
The football helmets are black in color with a Lion emblem on each side. On the back of each helmet, there should be a circular Hillsborough County seal sticker. The shoulder pads are white/silver in color.
Lions vice president Buddy Rudolph said that in a separate incident, just weeks earlier, the park was hit, although that time, stealing was not on the suspects to-do list .“They just seemed to have wanted to create havoc, and cause damage to the room where we keep some of the gear and our upstairs office,” Rudolph said. Investigation of this incident revealed that the suspects trashed the concession stand, broke into a field house and then tried to set it on fire, but were unsuccessful, deputies said.
Upon hearing of the first attack in the park, local businesses stepped up the plate, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who presented a $3,500 check to the program. “As word got out of the support we received, it may have been the reason for the theft that followed,” Wint said. To replace what was lost, the club is planning on a number of fundraisers, including a car wash and is hoping that the community will continue to support the program and the young athletes.
Anyone with any information is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at 247-8200. Anyone who wants to be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477) or report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com.