Oakland nonprofit that helps youth targeted twice by thieves in recent months

A nonprofit in Oakland has been targeted by thieves twice in recent months. In both cases, criminals went after the group's van, which played a crucial role in its mission to help students. 

Despite the loss, the group, Running for a Better Oakland, is determined to bounce back. 

"Upset that it happened again. Upset that everything was stolen this time," said Erin Choy, coach and communications director.   

The group's van was burglarized for the second time in a span of four months. In the most recent incident, the vehicle was also stolen while parked in a garage at the YMCA building in downtown Oakland.

"To be attacked again, it's heart-breaking," said Choy.  

The group released an image from surveillance video of the van being driven out of the lot May 13 when it was stolen. Police said officers on patrol recovered it two and a half weeks later.

"It was stripped of our two catalytic converters, no longer driveable," Choy said.

Items in the van were also stolen: expensive yoga mats, T-shirts and training gear for students.

"It was heart-breaking because we use a lot of that equipment Saturdays," said 17-year-old Liyah Khaoone, a student who's been a part of the program for five years. 

Her younger brother and sister are also members of Running for a Better Oakland also known as "RBO."

She said the nonprofit has taught her more than athletic skills.

"One of the main lessons I learned from RBO is that finishing is the most important," said Khaoone, "I use that life skill when it comes to school work, literally anything in my life."

Choy said the nonprofit has helped more than 1,000 students since it started 11 years ago.  

The program is free. Volunteer coaches train students to run in races. 

"We want to teach them hard work pays off. As long as they keep going, keep  persevering.  Anything is possible," said Choy.   

The nonprofit plans to persevere.  

Choy estimated the loss of the van and the contents to be $30,000.

Running for a Better Oakland hopes to raise enough money to replace what was stolen in time for the start of the fall season in September.

To help, the group has started a GoFundMe.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at Amber.Lee@Fox.com or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU, Instagram @AmberKTVU or Twitter @AmberKTVU.