Kayaks, paddleboards stolen from special needs camp in Clearwater

Pinellas County

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Bonnie Monroe was almost in tears on Monday when she got the news.

“I just want to cry. Cry and cry and cry,” said Monroe. “Because it just makes no sense to me. It devastates me to no end to think that someone would steal from special needs kids.”

Monroe founded and operates Freedom Sailing Camp of Florida, a Clearwater non-profit organization that gets kids and adults with autism out on the water. On Monday, however, Monroe learned all of the camp’s paddleboards, paddles and kayaks had been stolen from the Clearwater storage lot where they were kept.

Monroe explains the weather determines what activities take place on the water.

“Is it blowing so we can sail or if it’s dead out there, then we paddle and we kayak,” said Monroe. “So it depends on what equipment we bring out when we go to the beach.”

Now, the group is limited in what it can do. But it may not be for long.

Word of the theft is spreading fast on social media and already people are offering to donate funds and equipment to Freedom Sailing Club.

“Tonight I’m going to pick up two more kayaks that somebody has donated to me so some of that equipment is coming back which is great,” said Monroe. “I am thrilled that people are stepping up and saying hey, let us help you.”

The storage lot does have surveillance cameras but the crooks actually entered the yard via an abandoned mobile home park next door, and according to the manager of the lot, lifted the paddleboards and kayaks over the fence out of sight.

The manager of the lot told 8 On Your Side’s Chip Osowski he is in the process of reinforcing or raising the fences around the lot and adding additional cameras.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating the case.

For more information on the Freedom Sailing Club of Florida, you can check out their Facebook page here.

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