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Color guard’s efforts undercut by thieves

Less than three hours after Klahowya Secondary School’s color guard members set up a fireworks stand in Camp Union, thieves forced the lock open with a crowbar and made away with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise.

Monday evening, adviser Geri Eckstrom and half a dozen color guard squad members set up the Phantom Fireworks shop.

Eckstrom left at 11 p.m. At 2 a.m., she received a call from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

“(The girls) worked very hard for something like this to happen to them already,” she said.

Empty boxes from the unpacked fireworks were stacked near the booth’s door. Thus, the burglars managed to empty only one shelf, closest to the entrance. Eckstrom estimated the value of those fireworks at about $500.

“I can’t do an inventory because they stole my sheets,” she added.

The hope of recovering some of the sparkles went up in smoke later in the week when a custodian at Klahowya stumbled upon the debris from detonated fireworks. The color guard group knew the fireworks were theirs because no one else in the area had sold the Phantom brand yet, Eckstrom said.

Permits and licenses she obtained for the fire department also went missing and were replaced by Phantom Fireworks the following day.

The perps grabbed a $200 cash register and an $800 debit card machine as well.

“We’re already in the hole almost $1,500 and we haven’t even opened,” Eckstrom said Tuesday afternoon.

Until this year the color guard took part in the Klahowya band’s fireworks fund-raiser with a booth at the Chevron gas station on the corner of Newberry Hill Road and Seabeck Highway. Last year, the band raised $2,500 in commissions from its week-long fireworks sale.

When Eckstrom’s squad doubled for the upcoming school year to 20 girls, she decided it was time to split away from the band fund-raiser and open up a fireworks booth of their own. She was hoping to make enough profit to buy new uniforms for the color guard members, which cost $100 each.

If the two machines are not returned, however, the color guard owes that money to Phantom Fireworks.

Judy Holtz-Jones, of Seabeck, is the mother of first-time color guard member freshman Stacey Jones. Holtz-Jones was supposed to help set up Tuesday morning when she heard of the burglary.

“People are so horrid,” she said. “You try to teach good values in your kids and then you see something like this. It’s just unbelievable.”

Eckstrom said the thieves are believed to be older teenagers who drove a dark green or dark blue van. They broke a street light at the back of Camp Union Grocery and snuck into the fireworks booth while Eckstrom’s son dozed in a car nearby.

Another color guard parent saw the suspicious van in the parking lot Tuesday morning and has reported a license plate number to the sheriff’s office, Eckstrom said.

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