Donations pour in after thieves steal kids' camping gear from Palo Alto nonprofit

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A Bay Area nonprofit that helps adults and children with disabilities is targeted by theives, after someone took off with hundreds of dollars worth of camping and emergency supplies from a locked shed. The supplies were for a camping trip in June.

Abilities United has been around for 50 years. The organization doesn't have security cameras, because it never needed them until now.

On Tuesday afternoon, members of Abilities United went to check inventory in a shed behind their Palo Alto office, when they discovered the lock busted and missing. The shed was stacked with camping gear, emergency preparedness supplies, first aid kits, coolers and holiday decor. The items worth $1,600 were all gone.

"I was shocked," said Sheradan Nicholau, associate director of Abilities United. "This is a very community focused neighborhood. We love this community. We love this neighborhood. We've never experienced anything like this before."

The nonprofit believes the items were stolen sometime between Friday evening and Tuesday morning. It's bad timing with a camping trip to Half Moon Bay set for June.

"It's sad that they would be so heartless toward organizations like Abilities United," said Robert Mitchell of Redwood City.

"I'm kind of disappointed, whoever did it.," said Mike Aguilar, Abilities United Board Member. "It's really bad."

Abilities United serves 1,500 adults and children with special needs in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties teaching them to be independent.

"I feel that this agency has helped me a lot," said Navid Rahnemoon of Sunnyvale.

Camping trips are a chance to build and improve their social skills as well as enjoy the great outdoors. Some donations have started to trickle in yet not nearly enough.

"We watch every penny, we take every penny we use responsibily," said Nicholau.

Despite the theft, they won't let it bring their spirits down.

"We are a strong group, our participants and staff and volunteers are passionate about what we do," said Abilities United CEO Charlie Weidanz. "This is not going to prevent us from going camping."

Abilities United doesn't plan to cancel any activities. They'll make do what they have. If you'd like to donate, they're looking for new or gently used gear and they promise to make good use of them.