Nolan Turner was understandably shaken last Thursday when a thief stole $250 from the money he had earned selling water bottles on a street near his home in Cary, North Carolina.
Turner, 12, had been working hard to raise $1,000 as part of an effort to organize a school-wide wheelchair basketball game at his middle school, the Charlotte Observer reports.
Turner, who has spina bifida, had been fielding questions from classmates about what wheelchair basketball was like and wanted to show them how it worked firsthand by giving each child a chance to try out a wheelchair and teaching them to play ball, according to the paper.
Turner's fundraising efforts were going smoothly at first as he performed wheelchair tricks to sell the $1 bottles of water. But when a stranger approached him and chatted briefly before snatching his jar of money and disappearing through the woods, he hit a roadblock, according to his father Ken Turner.
Determined to keep his son's hopes alive, Ken Turner set up a fundraising site on gofundme.com. Just one week later, good samaritans had donated over $25,000 to support the wheelchair basketball event, far exceeding Turner's original $1,000 goal.
On the fundraising site earlier this week, Turner's father said that Nolan can't believe how generous people have been with their money and words of support.
"As I have told many people so far, we are simply overwhelmed with the positive response that we have gotten from everybody!! Nolan is so excited about the positive responses that he has been getting," Ken Turner wrote, adding later that his son was "overcome with emotion at times" when reading all the supportive messages people have left on the site.
Supporters have donated so much money that Turner's school will be able to hold a day-long wheelchair basketball event, according to the TODAY show. His mother Amy Moore told reporters she couldn't thank them enough for supporting an event that has meant so much to her son as he struggled with his disability.
"I'm amazed at everyone who has donated," Moore told the TODAY show. "Most of his life he's been the oddity, and now this is a sport he's able to compete in. I remember after his first game we went and had pizza afterward, and when we were driving home, Nolan said, 'This makes me feel like a normal person.' I thought, 'This is such a wonderful thing.'"
In the meantime, police are trying to track down the man who stole money from Turner, and have instructed anyone with clues to the case to call Cary police at 919-469-4012 or Crime Stoppers at 919-226-2743.
Read the Charlotte Observer's report for more on the Turner's story.