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Donor steps up, gives $25,000 to local ‘Toys for Tots’ hit by theft

Toys for Tots Vice President Thomas Dertz Toys For Tots warehouse where supply is low usually boxes toys are stacked

Toys for Tots Vice President Thomas Dertz in the Toys For Tots warehouse where supply is low, usually boxes of toys are stacked up throughout the building, but not this year. Monday, December 19, 2011. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 22, 2012 8:11AM

Big-hearted Chicagoans have ridden to the rescue of a Toys For Tots charity that lost $25,000 in a suspected embezzlement.

Just hours after the Sun-Times broke the news of how the alleged theft meant thousands of children would not be getting Christmas presents this year, donors including Chicago-based business Groupon had written the charity checks for more than $55,000 to cover the loss, Chicagoland Toys for Tots treasurer Janet Malpede said Tuesday.

“The children that we couldn’t help will now be helped,” Malpede said. “It’s absolutely amazing how people have responded — they believe in what we’re doing.”

The independent biker-run organization, based in Bridgeview, collects thousands of toys for the official Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots charity at its well-known motorcycle rally on the first Sunday of every December.

But it also collects, buys and distributes thousands of toys to needy children every Christmas on its own initiative. It was unable to respond to thousands of requests for help this year after board members discovered that a former volunteer allegedly had raided one of its accounts.

A flood of generous Chicagoans moved quickly to save Christmas for those needy children Tuesday, filling the charity’s warehouse with hundreds of dolls, balls, games and other toys and making financial donations.

Retired firefighter Ed Porter, 65, was among them. He handed over a $100 check and five toys after reading about the theft in the Sun-Times. “I just wanted to do my bit to make sure no kids go without a Christmas,” he said.

Malpede said a man who wrote a check to cover the entire $25,000 that was stolen wanted to remain anonymous, but she added that he has made the donation in the memory of former Chicago Bears great Sid Luckman.

The anonymous donation was later matched, Malpede said. On Wednesday, CouponCabin identified itself as the donor.

The Bridgeview police have been investigating the alleged theft of funds since April, but no charges have been filed.

Neither the official Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots bank accounts, nor its efforts to hand out gifts in the Chicago area have been affected by the embezzlement, Cook County coordinator Chad Falkos said Tuesday.

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