‘It’s just gone’: Nanaimo Raiders push on despite devastating $50K equipment theft

'It's just gone': Nanaimo Raiders push on despite devastating $50K equipment theft

The Vancouver Island Raiders football team is reeling after the theft of $50,000 in playing equipment out of their Nanaimo storage building, and coaches don’t know how they’ll recover from it.

From helmets to shoulder pads and even freezies, thieves stole nearly everything the team had.

Jake Laberge shook his head in disbelief as he walked into the VI Raiders Jr. football team’s equipment room Wednesday.

The team’s former quarterback, who played for the Raiders for six years, was one of many shocked by the brazen theft that has robbed the Nanaimo football club of nearly everything.

“It’s just gone and it’s the first time I’ve seen it. It sucks, like how do you rebuild from something like that?” said Laberge.

It happened overnight Wednesday, Aug. 31. According to RCMP, thieves pried open the storage building door at Nanaimo’s Caledonia Park, then cleared out the volunteer-run non-profit football team of nearly all of its equipment.

Even the freezies to keep players cool were taken by thieves that investigators say likely needed two or more vehicles to carry out.

“It’s hard. It’s a distraction for all the guys. To put in all that work all week, and to have something like that happen,” said Laberge.

“The amount of stuff that was stolen, no one’s putting it in a shopping cart and walking it down the road. This is a targeted thing,” said Greg Peacock, spokesperson for the Vancouver Island Raiders.

This follows a previous theft in 2021 that robbed the team of $15,000 in equipment, and in early August someone set fire to their storage facility causing significant smoke damage.

The team says they’re all crimes that have deflated spirits as players try to focus on the game before them.

“All of a sudden you come here and we’re missing more than half of the stuff one time, the rest of it the next time,” said Peacock.

Now, old equipment is being refurbished to get players on the field this weekend, though Peacock said the rest of the season could be a challenge.

“We gotta be able to field a team, put guys on safely. We gotta be able to equip them,” he said.

“I would hope that in our community, the stuff that the Raiders do for kids in our community that someone would say something and step up, but it sucks if you were involved and even think about doing this to a community team and a bunch of young men,” said Laberge.

But the team is refusing to give up. While RCMP investigate, players are planning to be ready for their next game on Saturday.

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