Restaurant donates thousands to soccer team after theft

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GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. —

A restaurant chain has stepped up to help a Gwinnett County soccer team after a thief stole thousands of dollars it raised for an out-of-state tournament.

Thieves stole about $4,000 from the Phoenix Red Boys after a long day of fundraising one week ago.

The team's dreams were shattered when, hours after the team took photos snapped at a grocery store fundraiser, a man dressed in all black and riding a motorcycle stole the money from vehicles as the team ate inside a restaurant.

Since then, Coach Bruno Kalonji said they've held additional fundraisers, but didn't know if they could recover from the loss. He was shocked when Church's Chicken sent a letter to the team, pledging $3,000.

"It was a huge deal for us. Yes. It was a huge deal," said Kalonji. "It's not about winning or losing games. It's more for the boys to do a showcase there, so that the college coaches can offer them scholarships."

Kalonji now believes his team will get to the tournament, but they still have a long way to go.

"We're still not at the point where we can commit to taking a bus," Kalonji said.

Ranked No. 1 in the country, the Red Boys is putting the same energy they display on the field into raising more money for this week's regional tournament in Oklahoma, and then on to the nationals in Kansas.

"This is amazing, tremendous. Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you," Kalonji said to Church's officials for their generosity.

"We just want to see them get there. Because they've fought so hard for it," said one player's parent Bibi Rivera.

The team will receive its $3,000 when they have lunch with Church's CEO Monday.

The company has also offered to feed the team when it competes at the nationals in Kansas next month.

To donate to the team, click here.