augusta free press news

Happy ending: Parents replace money stolen from Y hoops program

You might have heard the bad part to this story – that somebody broke into the office of YMCA Youth Sports Director John Spears a few Sundays back and stole $550 in money that had been raised through concession sales at Y basketball games.

Now to the part of the story that will make you feel good about humanity.

We need to recoup the money that was stolen as this was money that was collected from concession sales. We are talking about a substantial amount of money, and the loss is devastating to the Y youth sports program,” wrote Liz Cook in a letter to fellow Y basketball parents that started the drive to replacing the money that had been taken.touched by the commitment from the kids and parents to the YMCA and specifically all the hard work Coach Spears puts into our community.”

The effort far surpassed its original goal. Cook and Ileta Sondrol were on hand for the final game of the Y youth-basketball season on Sunday to present Spears with a surprise – in the form of a check for $1,250 raised by parents and supporters of Y basketball.

The usually loquacious Spears was reduced to tears at the surprise presentation. Y Executive Director Jeff Fife, a YMCA gym rat and veteran coach in the youth-basketball league, said he was ”

“We’re blessed by a supportive community, and I can’t begin to express my appreciation for the recovery of the funds and additional support for our mission in youth sports,” Fife said.

For the parents who spearheaded the effort to replace the stolen money, it wasn’t just the stolen money that they were paying back.

“Coach Spears has dedicated himself unselfishly to all our AAU girls and wants them to succeed in their basketball endeavors. I know that he truly loves each and every one of his players and wants them to be their best on and off the basketball court. He is one tough coach but also a great person,” Sondrol said.

“John Spears is the root for our kids’ success, and we need to show him our gratitude for all his time and effort he puts forth in our children to make them love the game of basketball,” Cook said.

Story by Chris Graham. More YMCA news at