By JON HAWORTH, ABC News
(SAN FRANCISCO) — A charity that collects toys for children in need has fallen victim to thieves who stole thousands of dollars’ worth of donated toys that would have been given to needy children over the holidays.
The incident occurred when Sally Casazza of the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program, one of the largest and oldest programs of its kind that distributes about 200,000 toys to an estimated 40,000 disadvantaged children each year, arrived at the shipping container where hundreds of “trikes” — similar to tricycles — were being stored to find that most of them had vanished, according to ABC News’ San Francisco station KGO-TV.
According to Casazza, the thieves cut the lock on the shipping container and then proceeded to empty out much of the storage unit, taking with them an estimated 200 electric fire truck and police car trikes, along with some non-electric ones, worth an estimated $100 each.
“I can see somebody taking one item but taking the whole thing? There goes all the stuff for the younger children that we had, as far as tricycles go,” Casazza told KGO.
Firefighters would have given all of those toys to children in need for Christmas.
“I think my only question would be why? I’m disappointed. Why did you do that? Why did you do that to the kids that we’re trying to help?” said Casazza.
The San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program has been around since 1949, according to their website, where it began with just a few firefighters repairing broken toys and bikes for 15 families to more than 300 firefighters in 2019 collecting toys for disadvantaged children. The program is completely dependent on donations to exist.
“Besides helping individual families in need, the Toy Program serves many community organizations, including shelters for abused women and children, inner-city schools, children’s cancer wards, and pediatric AIDS units. We also respond on a year round basis to displaced children who become victims of fires, floods and other such disasters,” the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program says on their website.
“I’m devastated by that,” Katherine Looper, who runs the Cadillac Hotel San Francisco, which permanently houses homeless individuals, told KGO in an interview. “I can’t imagine that someone has that kind of cruelty in their hearts to do that.”
KGO also spoke to San Francisco Police Sgt. Rich Jones who heads the nonprofit, Hunter’s Chest. He said that only six months ago his storage unit that was full of toys for children was also hit by thieves.
“Really dude? It’s for the kids. It’s Christmas. Bring them back!” said Sgt. Jones.
A suspect was eventually caught in the Hunter’s Chest incident but none of the toys were ever recovered.
For now, the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program say they are combing through surveillance footage to try and figure out when this crime happened and who could have done it.
Casazza, however, had one last plea.
“If whoever did this is watching and if they want to return all those trikes to us, no questions will be asked,” she said.
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