CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The Champaign area Toys for Tots director was shocked and saddened Friday morning to discover thieves had stolen hundreds of toys and bikes from his trailer, all of which had been donated by the community.
“Scumbags took Toys for Tots boxes. They took bikes,” Caesar Perez said. “They knew what this was.”
Perez said none of the toys that were stolen from his trailer were donated at WCIA’s toy drive on Dec. 8. Those toys had already been offloaded to the Salvation Army.
Perez said the theft happened sometime between Tuesday night and Friday morning. Perez picked up the toys that were donated at State Farm Center on Tuesday and then parked the trailer, with the toys inside, at his house.
He had never had an issue with parking his car and trailer there before.
“I park it in front of my house every day,” Perez said. “I lived there since February.”
Tuesday was the last time Perez checked the trailer. When he left his home Friday morning to deliver the toys to the Salvation Army, he expected to see 20 boxes of toys and several bikes in the trailer, packed to the ceiling.
When he arrived and opened the trailer, he was shocked to discover 90% of the boxes and all of the bikes were gone. Randall Summit of the Salvation Army said the toys would’ve gone to anywhere between eight and 12 children.
“These toys were stolen from the children that we’re supposed to help out every year,” Perez said.
Summit said they usually don’t press charges in instances like this, but Perez is adamant about holding the thieves accountable. He’s already contacted the police.
“I want those people that stole from me, and I want to those people that stole from the kids,” Perez said.
Despite his shock and anger, Perez is not letting the theft drag him down. He spent much of Friday morning and afternoon going back into the community and picking up more toys.
“I can’t let that be my priority and focus right now,” Perez said. “Right now, I got to go pick up toys.”
Perez added that in addition to the toys he picked up on Friday, he and Toys for Tots are planning to replace the toys that were stolen. Anyone wishing to donate replacement toys can deliver them to the Salvation Army of Champaign at 2212 North Market Street. Monetary donations can be made online. Toys are meant for boys and girls ages 10-12.