Red Deer’s 24 Squadron Air Cadets have not let the theft of about $100,000 in fundraising cash dampen their esprit de corps.
Dave Gillard, former treasurer for the squadron’s fundraising committee, was sentenced last Thursday to 10 months in prison for embezzling the money in 2015 and 2016. He was ordered to pay back $35,000 – the amount that could be proved in court.
Gillard stole the money by writing cheques to himself and forging the required second signature. The court heard he had taken the money to support his family after getting into financial trouble.
Gillard apologized to the squadron in court, admitting his crime was “despicable.”
Squadron volunteer Damian LaGrange said Wednesday the squadron and its 50 or so cadets and numerous volunteers have not let the crime dim their enthusiasm.
“Our squadron is doing well despite the financial setback,” LaGrange said. “The officers, cadets and families of our squadron are strong and dedicated to keeping this amazing program going.”
It took almost two years for the case to work its way through the justice system.
“We are relieved that this is concluded,” he said.
“We cannot change what happened. We want to put this behind us as a squadron.”
As for Gillard, LaGrange did not condemn him.
“We hope that Dave learned from this and changes his ways. We wish the best for his family as I’m sure this has been a very difficult time for them.”
The loss of $100,000 was keenly felt in the squadron. Some activities were cancelled and an annual ceremonial review usually held in a hotel banquet room was scaled back.
“We had to turn that into a potluck and do that down at the Armouries,” he said, adding this was just one example of the changes they had to make.
Meanwhile, cadets have been fundraising to rebuild their bank account.
“We are working on it. We are slowly building it back up.”
LaGrange said those interested in helping the squadron out or just want to see what cadets are all about can come to Cormack Armouries, 4402 55th St., Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.
Air cadets are open to youths 12 to 18 years old.