COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - The Naples community is stepping up to keep a little league football team's season alive.
WINK News first reported in August, the South Naples Pirates bank account was wiped out. While they have had to deal with a big distraction off the field, the kids and the community are determined to finish their season strong.
For 11 year old Lee Starkweather, playing football means everything. "I've been playing since I was five. Football has been in my blood."
Just before the season started the Pirates were dealt a blow when coaches discovered $17,000 missing from the teams bank account.
"I was sad because I didn't think we were going to have the season and we did all this hard work for the spring like just for nothing," says Carl Addison, a South Naples Pirate football player.
But now, the East Naples Civic Association and the Chamber of Commerce are coming together to support the team off the field with a fundraiser.
"They've already earned $4,000 on their own and our hope is we can help them raise $4,000 or $5,000 more and we can get these kids out there so they can concentrate on being kids and playing football and having fun, not raising money," says Chris Hagan, President of the East Naples Civic Association.
Quincy Harris, President of the South Naples Pirates says, "just to be able to see those kids play and have a good time and laugh and smile has been worth it."
With the help from community members like Anton Selkowitz, the Pirates season would be a bust. Selkowitz heard what happened to the kids and came to Sam Snead's Tavern in Lely from North Naples. "It's a good cause and I'm happy to do whatever I can. The kids are real important and that's our future, so we need to do what we can for them."
The Collier County Sheriff's Office hasn't made an arrest, but they tell WINK News the investigation is still active and ongoing.
For the Pirates, the wait has been frustrating, but they are more determined than ever to tackle this bump in the road.
"They see the perseverance, when you fall down you have to get back up and that's a great lesson for kids to learn," says Harris.
The Pirates have four games left this season including a tournament in Tampa October 20. In order for them to get all 150 kids up there and back, they have to rent three buses, which costs around $2,500.
"It's very costly, but I see a lot of these kids have never been out of Naples, so they go and see these big bridges and things like that they get excited so even though it costs a lot, it brightens my day to see them smile and have fun so, I think it's a good experience for them as well, says Harris.