ATWATER -- Christmas is still six months away -- but the Grinch came early this year for Atwater High's Band Booster Club.
Late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, someone broke into a storage container at the high school, stealing $6,000 in fireworks from the group, according to Amanda Darouze, wife of Band Booster President Michael Darouze.
Darouze said her husband showed up at the storage container around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday to load up the fireworks, only to discover that someone had broken the lock and stolen the fireworks. "It was completely emptied," Darouze said. "We're talking cases and cases of fireworks."
Fireworks are the biggest fundraiser of the year for the school's band booster club, which has about 140 student members, and includes the color guard.
The theft is a major setback for the club, and Darouze said they'll have to pay the fireworks company for the stolen items. The money from the fireworks sales benefit the band and color guard for the rest of the year, helping them pay for uniforms, instruments and other necessities. In addition, the club had planned to travel next year to an international music festival in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The club would be representing California at the event and the money raised from fireworks sales was supposed to help with expenses.
"The kids are devastated," Darouze said. "It's a blow for them and the parents."
The club has filed a police report, although no one has been arrested. "We don't really know how we're going to make up for what we lost," she said.
The club will be holding an 8 a.m. rummage sale and 10 a.m. car wash at Atwater High School on July 14 to benefit the club.
Donations for the club also can be sent to P.O. Box 277, Atwater, CA 95301.
Anyone with information about the burglary should call Atwater police at (209) 357-6396.
Riggs donates $1,000
On a similar note, members of Merced's Calvary Temple Pentecostal Church, who were robbed at their fireworks booth this week, were informed Thursday by officials at Riggs Ambulance Service that the company will donate $1,000 to the church.
Sonya Severo, Riggs community relations manager, said the company is making the donation to help the church recover some of the money that was stolen.
The church is raising the money to help kids attend camp. "We were so sad to hear that happened to them," Severo said. "Anything we can do to help."
Nathan Allen, the church's children's pastor, was ecstatic after hearing news of the donation. Allen said he's also grateful for the public support the church has received since the robbery.
"A lot of people have said they're keeping an eye out for us," Allen said.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or email@example.com.