SEBRING - It wouldn't normally be anything extraordinary on Monday when youth participants gather at the Highlands County sports complex for the start of the Sebring Youth Association's football season.
But this year it will be a testament of community support for the program, which faced having to postpone the football season after thieves broke into the complex last month.
Marilyn McNellis, president of the Sebring Youth Sports Association, said that in the wake of the theft of about $13,000 in equipment last month, more than $6,000 has been donated.
That's enough for the association to have a season, though additional money is needed to cover the costs of a full season, she said.
"We're truly grateful," she said, for all the support.
The thieves took jerseys, uniforms, helmets and other items. So far the Highlands County Sheriff's Office has not make any arrests in the case.
Since then, Central Security & Electronics donated $5,000 and an individual donor who wants to remain anonymous gave $1,000, she said. And that's in addition to smaller donations from banks and individuals, McNellis said.
The Highlands Eagles have helped in obtaining 26 helmets, she said.
McNellis said she expects to have about 150 participants, ages 5-14 this year. "The kids are ecstatic," she said, that the season will take place.
She said she's hopeful this year the senior team will go to the playoffs.
In addition to beginning the season on Monday at 5:45 p.m., the association will have registration for youth who have yet to sign up. The registration fee is $110 to cover all the costs, but many of the youth benefit from sponsorships, McNellis said.