Thieves target Penn Wood High football team; community rallies

LANSDOWNE, Pa. - August 30, 2013

First, arsonists torched Penn Wood High School last spring. Now someone has swiped equipment from the football team.

Friday's regular season home opener for the Penn Wood Patriots against West Chester East was in jeopardy for several days because of a crisis beyond the students' control.

$10,000 worth of equipment was stolen, including at least 20 helmets and 13 shoulder pads.

"Obviously it was someone else who had a sports program who took the stuff," said Athletic Director Rap Curry.

But to the rescue came an entire community. Penn Wood's local vendors sent over much of what the team needed.

The Philadelphia Eagles have promised to send some gear. Volunteer fundraisers are underway, and there will be some insurance money.

"We have found the community pulls together, the kids pull together, the teachers pull together. And we are so Penn Wood proud of these young people," said School Board Director Charlotte Hummel.

"We tried to make sure it didn't break their spirits this week. It was something, because it was four days before this home opener," said Patriots Head Coach Troy Brooks.

"It's been a rough last year. So we just want to stick together as a team and win some games, make our school look better," said running back and high school senior Lamir Smith.

The school was forced to shut down last April after arsonists set fire to classrooms.

Over the summer, $15,000 worth of musical equipment was stolen from the shuttered building as repair work took place.

A $22,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the arson suspect.

Regarding Friday's game, Penn Wood Patriots lost, 24-7. But just making it to the field, or course, represented a victory in its own right.

School will open on time Tuesday for 800 students. And they return with renewed spirit and optimism despite all the cruel obstacles that mean-spirited criminals have placed with their way.

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