The fundraiser was part of a benefit to raise money for the Down Syndrome Association of Central California.
On Friday, golfers at Ridge Creek Golf Course didn't let the suspects who stole $4500 worth of goods spoil their fun. All 70 athletes showed up to play in the tournament, but many left empty-handed. That has organizers concerned about next year's attendance.
"The way you make your mark is if you have a good tournament the first year then more people will want to come the next year and so with our hiccup I think it might hurt us a little bit," said Down Syndrome Association President Manuel Cortes.
When Cortes awakened at 5:30 Friday morning to load items into his SUV, he found his stereo had been stolen as well as the golf equipment he had placed in there the night before.
"This is basically everything they took," he said as he pulled a bag out from the back seat. "We have golf towels that say "Tee Up for Down Syndrome." These are all the gifts we were giving them and our logo on water bottles."
Seven boxes of merchandise were missing, including $900 worth of golf balls and about 150 tournament t-shirts with the Association's logo embroidered onto the top left side.
"It's senseless to take stuff when you see something labeled Down Syndrome Association," said Cortes. "You can't sell that without people knowing where you got that from."
The car was parked out in front of his Visalia home. He said it appeared the thieves had taken their time.
"I'm assuming they got in through the back," said Cortes. "You can see the tire tracks. You can see they just backed up right into it and just shuffled back and forth loading up their vehicle."
Also missing were several raffle and silent auction items that were supposed to help the organization raise money for children with down syndrome. Golfers told Action News they couldn't believe someone would steal from kids with special needs.
"It's terrible," said George Rodriguez. "There's a lot of people that wake up in the morning that look forward to going to the tournament, knowing it was going for a good cause."
Despite the theft, organizers say the athletes had a good time and they hope to have an even bigger turnout at next year's tournament.
"Anger first hits you first, of course, then the shoulda, woulda coulda's, then 15 minutes later you're like you know what it's just stuff. They didn't come into the house," said Cortes.
Organizers are already planning their next big fundraiser in October at hoover high school in Fresno.