Person steals autism walk donations

PITMAN, N.J. - September 30, 2009 Last weekend, Kelly Donahue along with 34 family members and friends participated in the annual Gloucester County Autism Walk, raising money under the name "Team Jesse" in honor of her 8-year-old son who suffers from autism.

On Tuesday, she went to The Ground House coffee shop on Broadway in Pitman to collect the 57 donation cards and money customers there pledged for the walk. That's when she got a terrible surprise.

"I said you sent somebody already to pick it up. She says no. I said well, someone came and got it," Tim Zitkevitz of the Ground House said.

Apparently last Friday before the walk, an unknown woman came to the coffee shop claiming she was from the autism walk committee and was there to pick up the donations. With no reason to doubt her, employees turned them over and now that person and the money are gone.

"I know that it's tough economic times out there, but to take money from these kids is just to me unheard of. I mean, how low can you go?" Kelly said.

The money raised by the walk goes to the Gloucester County Special Services Education Foundation which helps kids with this developmental disorder by offering outreach programs, communication and social skills classes and respite care for families.

"They took money that these kids need, that special needs kids need in the area," husband Michael Donahue said.

"They knew when the walk was so they were going to come right before, they knew all the money was there and take off with it," waitress Allison Wofford said.

"There's just no room for those kind of people in the world and to take from those children; it's just wrong," Zitkevitz said.

Kelly has filed a report with police.

The exact amount of money stolen is unknown, but as word about what happened gets around, some businesses and individuals are making donations to make up for the theft.

"People are just completely appalled this would happen. You see that people really are good," Kelly said.

Anyone with information should call Pitman Police.

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