An Ottawa youth football club is trying to raise thousands of dollars to pay for pilfered equipment after thieves broke into its Donald Street clubhouse late last month.
Geoff Woodhouse, president of the North Gloucester Giants, said the thieves entered through an unlocked door of the city-owned facility and made off with thousands of dollars worth of helmets, shoulder pads and jerseys.
They also took team-branded jewelery, bags containing footballs and pylons, and a television set, Woodhouse said. The showers were also left running, damaging various pieces of training equipment, and food from a refrigerator was strewn across the floor.
"It was a big blow. The loss is substantial," Woodhouse said.
Donations from as far away as Florida
The Giants have been in operation since 1968, and each year field five different football teams for players between the ages of eight and 19.
Woodhouse said since last month's break-in, they've been holding an ongoing bottle drive to raise money to replace what was taken, and recently launched an online fundraising campaign.
'We look at this as home. The boys and girls that play football, this is their home. And absolutely, we got invaded a little bit.' - Geoff Woodhouse, North Gloucester Giants
They've also received donations from local businesses, said Woodhouse, while one Florida baseball team learned of the club's plight over social media and held a fundraiser for the Giants.
The most significant donation — in terms of dollar value, at least — has come from developer Mattamy Homes, which Woodhouse said offered $17,000 to cover the costs of the stolen helmets and shoulder pads.
It was a gift, he said, that left him "speechless."
"They want nothing in return. They did it just out of the kindness of their heart."
However, the club still needs about $13,000 to pay for replacement jerseys and other miscellaneous equipment. Woodhouse said even though the burglary happened in late June, they're still discovering certain items are missing from the clubhouse.
'No longer a safe haven'
"For a lot of players, and me, [the clubhouse] is like a second home," said Woodhouse's 15-year-old son Avery, who plays on the club's midget-level squad.
He said a lot of Giants players come from "inner city" neighbourhoods like Overbrook, and said many of his fellow teammates see the clubhouse as an escape — or at least they did, until last month's break-in.
"You feel like it's an invasion of privacy. You feel betrayed, almost," he said. "This is no longer a safe haven."
In an email, the City of Ottawa said it's not responsible for "third-party equipment" stored in its facilities, and that the clubhouse has an alarm system and locks on all the doors.
The city also said it was not aware of any charges or arrests in the case.
Ottawa police did not comment Monday about the status of their investigation, but said more information would be available Tuesday.
Despite the theft — compounded by the fact the clubhouse also flooded earlier this summer — Geoff Woodhouse said he feels confident the club will be ready when their season kicks off in August.
"We look at this as home. The boys and girls that play football, this is their home. And absolutely, we got invaded a little bit," Woodhouse said.
"But at the end of the day, you know what? We'll just keep on pushing."