VISALIA, California — It’s been a rough week for the Visalia Seahawks Swim Team after the team’s trailer was stolen over the weekend. The trailer and some of what’s been taken has been returned, however there’s still a lot of pricey things the team has to replace.
Despite all this, the team is happy to still have its spirit and pride.
The Visalia Seahawks’ trailer doesn’t move from its spot at Golden West High School when it’s swimming season. But, sometime between last Friday and Monday — the trailer was stolen.
The team’s president, Irma Wheeler, didn’t even realize it was stolen until CHP – Visalia officers notified her Monday that it was found ditched in an orchard north of Woodlake.
Most of what was inside was already gone.
“Pretty much everything that was valuable to us, including the flags, were gone,” said Wheeler.
The stolen property included a lot of equipment the team used for swim meets. The cost to replace what was stolen — along with repairing the damage to the trailer — added up to a $5,000 bill.
Besides equipment for swim meets, the Seahawks’ money goes toward scholarships for their swimmers.
“Our team doesn’t make money every season. Our goal is to build enough funds to pay the scholarships and to purchase the awards for the end of the season,” said Wheeler.
Thanks to an anonymous tip, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office found and arrested Duane Oaks, 48, for receiving stolen property. Still in his possession, the team’s flags, which amounts to more than $2,000 in property.
For Wheeler, who’s family has been involved with the team for 14 years, said getting the flags back is enough for now.
“It was important to us that our pride, our spirit of being Seahawks was recovered, which is [what the flags represent],” she said.
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help the team out. Find it by clicking here.