THE family and friends of a critically ill toddler say support they have received since the theft of a charity collection box containing cash to help fund the holiday of a lifetime has been overwhelming.
Hundreds of pounds have been donated towards the cost of sending three-year-old Mason Campion and his family to Disneyland since word spread of the theft.
Mason suffers from an aggressive form of cancer which was found in his brain and has now spread to his spine.
The appeal to raise enough money to send Mason and his parents, from Hunwick, County Durham, on a dream holiday was launched shortly before Christmas.
As part of fundraising efforts, a charity box was placed on the counter at Crumbs Snack Bar, in Evenwood, near Bishop Auckland, along with a poster promoting a fundraising football match in the village.
Raiders forced their way into the sandwich shop between 2pm on Friday and 7am on Saturday, taking the charity box – containing about £200 – and a staff tips jar with about £60.
Owner Rachael Turner said since word spread of the break-in, she had been inundated with donations.
“When I saw the charity box was gone, I was devastated. It was a disgusting thing to do," she said.
“But even as I was waiting for the police to come on Saturday morning people were approaching me and giving money to replace what had been taken.
“There must have been about £550 donated just since Saturday.”
Mason’s mum Carol described the response as “amazing.”
She said: “I just could not believe someone could take the charity box. That’s a low thing to do.
“But it’s been amazing. People are coming forward saying they want to help. More and more are wanting to join in and do something for Mason.”
Others helping to raise money include Evenwood Town FC, the team Mason’s father Andrew plays for.
Manager Chris Geddes said: “You would not be able to print my reaction when I heard the cash box had gone. It was disgraceful.
“I had to go to football on Saturday and tell the lads what had happened.
“The opposition, Darlington Rolling Mills, immediately gave us £25 for the appeal and the league has donated another £100.
“I have also had total strangers coming up and giving money.”
A charity match between Evenwood Town and Bishop Auckland Green Tree will be held on Saturday, February 1, kick-off 11.15am, followed by more fundraising events and a karaoke night at the Bay Horse, Evenwood.
Other activities for Mason have included a non-uniform day at Ramshaw Primary School, which raised £160, and a charity day at Apple Hair and Beauty in Evenwood, which added another £800 to the appeal.
Mrs Campion said Mason was currently undergoing a course of chemotherapy at home.
She said he was originally diagnosed with cancer just after his second birthday.
“He started being sick and we thought it was a stomach bug," she said. "He ended up in hospital and after a number of scans he was found to have a brain tumour which has now spread to his spine.
“They are trying to keep him as well as they can for as long as they can.”
- A 24-year-old man of no fixed address appeared before Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court today (Monday, January 27) charged in connection to the theft of the charity box. He was remanded in custody until Friday, January 31.
- Police are continuing to appeal for witnesses to the break-in at Crumbs Snack Bar to come forward.
- Anyone with information should contact PC Bridget Westerman at Bishop Auckland police station on 101.