Viewers help local track team raise money after funds stolen by travel agent

A story only on Fox 26 about a kids' track club has led to heartwarming results.

Fox 26 News first told viewers about the Dragon Youth Track Club.

They said their fundraising money was taken by their travel agent who had no defense when we revealed the hotel contract he presented the track club with was bogus.

This is after the kids held countless car washes and fundraising efforts for eight months to bring in money so they could go to a national track meet in Florida.

After Fox 26 News aired the story, donations came in, with an especially generous $10,000 contribution from an anonymous donor.

The head coach says now, none of the kids' hearts will be broken this week, and while they haven’t reached their goal yet, they say this is enough to get by and get the group of kids to Florida.

“We have a practice today, and I think at that practice we're going to go ahead and…let them know, ‘hey guys, no need to stress anymore. The community has stepped up, and we're backing you, and everyone else is backing you so we're going to make it happen.’ We're going to Florida!” said Rodney Cole, the head coach of the Dragons Youth Track Club.

The national track meet the club is going to is the national AAU Track and Field Club Championships for kids at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.

They plan on starting their 16-hour drive to Orlando on Saturday night.

The track meet starts this Sunday.

The kids track club has worked tirelessly to raise money to get to a national track meet in Florida.

But after all their work, the money disappeared.

The directors of the Dragons Youth Track Club claim their travel agent took it and never booked the rooms.

For these kids, it's been a race for the past eight months.

They've been holding countless car washes to get themselves to Florida for a national track meet that starts this Sunday.

“We travel to Fort Bend, per se, and that's like a field trip to some of them....so to be able to take them to Florida to the ESPN sports complex, it's big for them. They would probably never be able to get the chance to go,” Rodney Cole, the head coach of the Dragons Youth Track Club in Northwest Houston.

Club administrators say they gave a chunk of their fundraising money to a travel agent in March.

But when they called their hotel to check on reservations last week, they were dismayed to find no rooms had been paid for.

 “We've lost our rooms,” said Cole. “We paid him a total of $8,200, and the hotel has not seen it.”

 Fox 26 News reporter Angela Chen did a background check on the travel agent, Eric Sackett, on the Harris County District Clerk's website and found him connected to a case of fraud with a bond of $5000 in separate case from 6/29/2015.

As for the travel agreement, Sackett had presented the track club with a contract from the hotel, which required a deposit.

But when we contacted the hotel in Orlando, the sales director wrote back:

"I know for a fact that this contract was not sent by any team member that works at the Homewood Suites by Hilton - Lake Buena Vista /Orlando...this isn't even our template for contracts. I am the only person that works in the sales department for this property. There has never been a Jennifer Loman that worked at this property,” wrote Jamee Meadlo, the Director of Sales for Homewood Suites by Hilton at the Lake Buena Vista/Orlando location on Marbella Palm Court.

Hotel representatives were not able to comment further.

The track club said Sackett still has their money.

Sackett initially agreed to interview with Fox 26 News but today, he said he was busy and stopped responding.

Some parents are now paying for their kids' trips out of their own pockets.

I felt upset how a person can take all the money we raised,” said Donyea Jarmon, a Dragons Youth Track member.

But for the lower-income kids, they won't get to go, their tickets to a chance for national triumph taken by a man who is now unreachable.

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