A group of frustrated parents in Ferris is looking for a flag football coach after he allegedly stole fundraiser money and fled to Longview, according to one of the mothers and the cheer sponsor.
Donte King, head coach of the Ferris Yellowjackets from the Ferris Youth Sports Association, organized a series of fundraisers that would have helped parents under the poverty line purchase uniforms for their children to participate. Resident Amber Bright said the parents held seven fundraisers that raised approximately $1,700 for the young athletes.
"He messaged me about it, and he never met me or followed through," cheer coordinator Samantha Blackburn said.
Bright said the money was supposed to go to 11 underprivileged children who couldn't afford their uniforms. Two were boys uniforms priced at $95 each, while nine were cheerleader uniforms at $160 each.
Three of those were Bright's children. One of those, her eight-year-old daughter, suffers from PTSD after being physically abused by her birth father. Her daughter's therapist recommended enlisting her into an extracurricular activity that she would enjoy.
Since her husband recently lost his job, her family had to raise funds for her daughters' uniforms so they could participate in the little league program.
"We fundraised every last bit of it, and he stole it," Bright said. "Now nobody has uniforms, and they have to pay in full."
After hosting fundraisers May 1 through July 13, Bright said the league was classified as a 501c3 nonprofit, allowing them to request for sponsors and get a break on their taxes.
One month later, King still has not contacted Bright or the rest of the parents.
"I asked where is the kid's money," Bright explained. "Did he ever give it to you? Our cheer coach goes 'no. He never gave us nothing.'"
Later in August, Bright said she and the other parents confronted King at a flag football game.
"I said 'Donte, where's the girls' uniform money?'" she recalled. "He ignores me. The cheer coach goes to him, she starts talking, and he's like 'We only raised $600, and I can get that to you out of my pocket.' $600 is a big difference from almost $1,700."
According to Bright, a board member later accused the parents of mismanaging their earnings from the fundraisers.
"I know how much was there," Bright explained. "They never asked me how much was there. I know because me and another mom counted it."
On Tuesday, one of the parents caught King packing up and leaving his house. Bright said one of the neighbors told them he was heading to Longview.
Ferris Police Investigator Walter Weiss said Bright contacted the police, and the department opened an incident file in response to her call.
"I would really, really love to be told that this is all a misunderstanding," Weiss said. "That they found the money in some way, or that there was some legitimate accident. However, I think if that was the case, it probably would have been solved by now."
No charges have been filed yet, but Weiss said the department is actively trying to contact King so they can resolve the issue quickly.
"At this point, I don't care about the league," Bright expressed. "Who's going to protect the kids? Nobody seems to be standing up for these babies who were stolen from. Who gets to protect them?"
Multiple efforts were made to reach out to King by the Daily Light. He did not respond by press time.
Although the parents are meeting with the Ferris sports association on Thursday to compare their financial records, 11 children are still without uniforms for the season. If you would like to donate or sponsor these children's uniforms, email Amber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX