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All stolen toys to be replaced

The phone calls began at 5:30 a.m. Monday and didn't stop until the battery grew faint on the Toys for Tots telephone.

Response to the weekend theft of 1,000 toys from a Toys for Tots warehouse has been overwhelming, organizers said Monday afternoon.

The Marine Corps received enough donations to replace all the stolen toys.

"Toys for Tots greatly appreciates the community's response. We are 100 percent. We completed our mission for this year," Gunnery Sgt. James Watt said.

He would not say how much cash had been donated.

"Any toys left over will be used in our startup for next year," said the Rev. Mike Stockwell, committee chairman for the local Toys for Tots program. "Same thing goes for the cash. It goes into our account."

The nonprofit is accepting donations through Friday.

For Watt, the phone calls began Monday morning when a radio station called wanting to know how people could help.

"Blindsided," he said of that first call.

The phone kept ringing.

"We've had well over 100 phone calls," he said at midday as the telephone battery went dead.

The governor and first lady announced they would donate $1,000 and encouraged others to donate as well.

"That's really about as low as you can get," Gov. Mark Parkinson said of the theft.

Businessman and congressional candidate Wink Hartman gave $5,000 and pledged another $5,000 as a reward to catch the burglars.

Spirit AeroSystems employees donated $15,000 from their Good Neighbor Fund. The Bombardier Aerospace Learjet Care Fund donated $2,000.

"We wanted to turn something bad into something good," one Learjet employee said.

Chad Manspeaker, public affairs director for Laborers' Local 1290, posted about the burglary Monday on the blog Forward Kansas.

"Please pull together anything you can," Manspeaker wrote."... No Grinch is gonna steal this Christmas if we all pull together."

Many Wichitans read or heard about the story and simply wanted to help.

"It's Christmastime," said Wichitan Betty Applewhite. "There's going to be some children that probably are not going to have any toys. I thought I'd send in a donation."

Bill Johnson felt the same.

"I don't understand how this can happen," Johnson said. "It doesn't make me angry. It just makes me sad."

Thieves broke into the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots warehouse on East Kellogg and took more than 1,000 toys sometime between 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday.

They apparently picked a lock on the barrier gate, threw open an overhead door and ransacked box after box meticulously packed and ready for distribution.

Lt. Barry VonFange of the Wichita Police Department's burglary section said anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the burglary section at 316-268-4141 or Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111.

Toys stolen included MP3 players, makeup kits, footballs, basketballs — even Fisher-Price toys for infants.

"We're asking for any help we can get," VonFange said.

"It's going to be challenging" to solve this case, he said. "We're checking to see if there's any video that's available."

Police are monitoring local pawnshops for the appearance of any of the stolen items.

It's the second major theft of Christmas presents intended for the less fortunate of the community. More than a dozen presents intended for children 16 and older were stolen from a storage shed at Parallax Program's outpatient clinic and coffee shop at 830 S. Hillside the weekend before Thanksgiving.

People can still donate gifts at Marine Corps donation boxes in area Walmarts or at Davis Moore Automotive at 6205 E. Kellogg, through Friday. To make cash donations, call Stockwell at 316-300-0204.

Gifts and money donated locally will stay local, Stockwell said.

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