BENEFITING: RADY CHILDRENS HOSPITAL-SAN DIEGO
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Sheriff’s deputies are looking for a real-life Grinch who crashed a Bonita holiday block party Saturday and stole several hundred dollars in donations destined for Rady Children’s Hospital.
The thief struck during Ron and Sharon Komendera’s annual Grand Lighting Party, a decade-long tradition on Cienega Drive that welcomes hundreds of neighbors and strangers to enjoy the couple’s extravagant holiday light and music show.
Visitors were greeted by 36,000 lights choreographed to music, as well as free hot dogs, cookies and cocoa. The only thing the Komenderas suggested in return was for guests to donate to the children’s hospital by dropping cash or a check into a large plastic bucket affixed to their mailbox.
Ron Komendera, 77, said that bucket was nearly full, and likely held anywhere between $500 to $1,000 Saturday evening, before someone pocketed the funds for themselves.
He noticed the jar had been emptied about 8:30 p.m. and called sheriff’s deputies.
“I had a complete emotional breakdown. I cried and cried,” Komendera wrote in an email to Rady’s.
Sheriff’s officials said Tuesday they are actively investigating the theft.
“It’s unconscionable someone would do something like this to a man trying to do something good,” said sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Caldwell.
Hospital officials said this is the fourth year the couple has collected donations for the hospital, raising close to $6,000 thus far. Komendera said despite the theft, they still managed to raise another $1,000 Saturday.
He said an estimated 400 to 500 visitors stopped by Saturday’s party.
Komendera had requested that funds raised this year go toward funding the salary of a child life specialist, a position that helps ill kids navigate their hospital stay, said hospital spokesman Carlos Delgado. The positions are funded through philanthropy.
“He’s a very generous individual who just wanted to make a difference,” Delgado said.
Komendera said many checks were in the stolen donation jar, and he fears the thief may try to alter them for more money.
Anyone with information about the theft can call the Sheriff’s Department at (858) 565-5200 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477, where tipsters could be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.