After nearly $50,000 worth of equipment was stolen from the Bell Gardens Youth Football and Cheer program ahead of their season opener, the Los Angeles Rams and the Bell Gardens community came together to make their opening day unforgettable.
Kicking off at Bell Gardens High School on August 31, Bell Gardens Police Department, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-58), the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis (D-1) presented a $51,000 check to the youth football and cheer program.
It was early July when the theft occurred, as the Bell Gardens Youth Football and Cheer program contemplated how they were going to start their season in just three weeks. Once Bell Gardens Chief of Police Scott Fairfield heard the news, he started a social media campaign with local business owners. Through these efforts, nearly $7,000 was raised for the team. Once the campaign was jumpstarted, the Bell Gardens community and the greater LA region began to rally in support of the program.
"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."
Assembymember Garcia, a Bell Gardens native and alumnus of Bell Gardens High School, donated $5,000 and reached out to the Los Angeles Rams and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association for additional donations. Supervisor Hilda Solis contributed a matching donation of $5,000 and reached out to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Rams and Chargers donated a combined $15,000 and spearheaded a collection of used football equipment from other youth programs. The CCPOA also donated an additional $10,000 to the program while the Bell Gardens Youth Football and Cheer Program launched a GoFundMe page that raised more than $7,500 in donations.
"This is an incredible act of generosity coming from our entire community, it's inspiring," said Assemblymember Garcia. "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 need."
With generous donations and new equipment, the Bell Gardens Youth Football and Cheer Program is now eager to get the season started. After the opening day festivities, the team put on their gear and made their way to the field where they finally began preparing for their upcoming matchup.
"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's family," said Supervisor Solis. "This program has helped them build 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."