Grinch steals children's gifts, but Boston's Christmas spirit shines

A thief stole $15,000 worth of toys destined for needy children. But he didn't steal Christmas.

Adam Hunger/AP/File
Boston Celtics Shaquille O'Neal checks out Nov. 14 after shopping in Framingham, Mass., for toys for the Boston area Toys for Tots program. On Saturday, a local thief apparently made off with $15,000 worth of the toys that had been collected. But officials are again accepting donations, which are pouring in.

Is the Grinch real?

Boston police officers discovered on Saturday that a thief had stolen about $15,000 worth of Christmas toys designated to be distributed to children through the Marines' Toys for Tots program.

The toys were stolen from a locked portable storage container in Burlington, Mass., apparently early Dec. 18. The toys were awaiting sorting and distribution to charities that serve families in need. Another container showed evidence of an attempted theft. Both containers are owned by PODS Enterprises, which donated thousands of its containers for Toys for Tots programs around the United States.

Police say whoever stole the toys went through them carefully, selecting only toys valued over $15 each and intended for children ages 8 and up.

But in a twist worthy of a Dr. Seuss fairy tale, the area's needy children won't go without. In Boston, the Marines reopened the window for Christmas gift donations, and the response has been overwhelming.

"The public has really stepped up to the plate and come forward since the story was first reported," said Sgt. Michael Popovics of the Massachusetts State Police. "Between the Marine Corps and the State Police and the public, we are vowing that we will collect the toys and make sure no deserving child goes without one."

This is the 26th Christmas season in which the state police have assisted the Marines in toy collection. The donated toys and cash donations are distributed to area nonprofit groups and churches, which provide them to needy families whose children might otherwise not have holiday gifts.

Because of the theft, the original toy donation deadline of Friday, Dec. 17, has been extended to Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Anyone in the Boston area can drop off a toy or a check at any state police department (you can find them here). People outside the area can mail checks to Toys for Tots Coordinator; 124 Acton Rd.; Maynard, MA 01754.

The state police are not set up for over-the-phone or PayPal contributions.

As for the thief, the investigation is under way.

"This is not just a crime against the PODS company or the Massachusetts State Police or the United States Marine Corps or even the administrators of this wonderful program who have worked so hard to collect these toys," said Col. Marian McGovern, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, in a statement. "This is a despicable crime against the generous people who donated these toys and against the hundreds of children in need who would have received these gifts and who now will not. The State Police and the Burlington Police will do everything we can to find who did this and try to recover these toys."

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