It had looked as though thousands of underprivileged Chicago kids expecting presents from Toys for Tots this season were going to be left empty-handed after at least $25,000 is believed to have been embezzled from the charity by a former board member.
As news rapidly spread throughout the Chicagoland area of the apparent theft, however, the holiday spirit appears to have kicked in. The Chicago Tribune reports that an anonymous man handed over a $25,000 check covering the missing funds in the memory of former Chicago Bears quarterback Sid Luckman. Toys for Tots Chicagoland further reports that they've received other donations of cash, toys, gift cards and other items as their phone rings off the hook.
"This (theft) has been hard on everyone," Janet Malpede, the group's treasurer, told the Tribune. "But it makes you feel good to know that there are good people out there."
Although eight months have passed since board members found discrepancies in the nonprofit's accounts and police began investigating the alleged theft, no charges have been filed, ABC Chicago reports. The missing money represented about a year's worth of cash donations, officials told the station.
Toys for Tots usually collects and buys about 20,000 toys for children across the Chicago area, after year-round fundraising and toy donation events including a Motorcycle Parade in Bridgeview, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Toys for Tots Chicagoland President George Fortier said that the theft would have prohibited them from completing their mission.
"These toys mean the world to children and their families, but I'm afraid we just won't be able to do it for them this year," Fortier initially told the Sun-Times.
A board member reportedly resigned shortly after the accounting error was discovered, saying he needed to care for his ailing wife, who also volunteered with the Bridgeview branch of the agency, according to ABC. The pair denies having any knowledge of the money's whereabouts.
Chicagoans still interested in helping Toys for Tots respond to more children's wish lists can donate toys or money at the charity's website.