Sick man's holiday funds stolen
A Blenheim man fundraising to bring his sick friend over from England for a holiday was amazed when he learned a donation box had been stolen.
Gary Newell moved to Blenheim from England about four years ago.
When he found out his good friend from his hometown of Bournemouth had brain cancer, he wanted to give him a holiday.
His mate, who is 30, wasn't able to work so having a holiday was a bit out of reach, he said.
A couple of months ago he came up with the idea of having a fundraiser evening at the Grovetown Country Hotel.
"I was just thinking ‘how are we going to get him out here', and it all just came together," he said.
Marlborough businesses jumped in with donations, including breweries Renaissance, Moa and 8 Wired, which each donated a keg for the night.
Westmeat and Meaters each donated a $50 voucher, while Vodafone chipped in with a $450 smart phone.
Mr Newell was doing a plumbing job at the house of one of the members of Blenheim band Chilli Dogs, who offered to play on the night for free.
"I mentioned what I was doing, and he seemed keen," Mr Newell said. "It sort of made the evening."
Grovetown Hotel owner Damien Johnston put the majority of the profit made from bar sales toward the cause.
About $2000 was raised in total, including donations from jars set up at Watery Mouth Cafe, Zuppa Cafe and United Video.
The jar at United Video, in Kinross St, had the most money in it, with at least $250.
But when Mr Newell went to collect it, it wasn't there.
After scrolling through security camera footage, it was discovered the jar had been taken about three weeks earlier.
"I was just amazed really," he said.
"I come from a dodgy town in England, and I'd be surprised to see that happen there. I didn't expect to see that in Blenheim."
United Video manager Trudie Jones said staff didn't realise the glass jar had been stolen until Mr Newell came to collect it.
"It just disappeared one day and we all thought he'd come in and got it already," she said.
The jar, which had been full, was clearly labelled with the purpose of the donations.
A poster also explaining the cause had been taped to the counter in front of the jar.
"It had the guy's face on it," Ms Jones said. "He would have totally seen what it was about."
A staff member had gone out the back to get something when the man took the jar. Video footage showed the man watching the staff member then quickly grabbing it and walking out, she said.
The money raised was still enough to get Mr Newell's friend over to Blenheim. He planned on booking a flight for new year or mid-January. If the airfare went over what had been raised, he would just top it up, he said.
His friend was looking forward to coming over.
He knew about the fundraiser, but hadn't expected much to come of it, he said.
"On the night of the fundraiser, I phoned him up and told him," he said.
"He was pretty chuffed about it."
To donate money, drop in to the Marlborough Express in Arthur St. Anyone with information should contact Blenheim police on 03 578 5279 or call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
- The Marlborough Express