YOUNGSTERS left devastated after thieves stole money they had saved for a summer trip have been cheered up thanks to a kind-hearted businessman.
Around £450 was stolen in a raid at Jutland Road Community Centre, in Hartlepool, over the weekend.
The money, which had been saved up over the last year through tuck shops and small fundraisers, had been set aside to pay for youngsters who use the Owton Fens Community Association youth club from the centre to enjoy a trip to Flamingoland.
After the cash box containing the money was swiped, leaders at the community centre had to tell the children it was unlikely they would be able to go on the day trip.
But after reading about their plight in the Mail, town man Howard Bedford - who runs HMB Accountants in Billingham - stepped in to replace the missing money.
Howard, who lives on the Headland, said: “When I saw the article, I just felt so sorry for the kids.
“They had saved up over the last year, and I can imagine how disappointed they were when they were told the money had been stolen.
“I just thought it was such a shame. As a business we do quite a bit for local charity, and this was something I was only too willing to help out with.”
Police are still investigating the theft, which happened bewteen the centre being shut last Friday evening and reopening on Monday.
Mark Ashman, community development officer for OFCA, said he was “overwhelmed” by Howard’s gesture.
Mark, 32, said: “This is a fantastic thing to do, and we can’t thank him enough.
“When we got all the kids together on Monday and told them that it looked as though we were going to have cancel the trip, they were gutted.
“They have been looking forward to this for months, and the only way we could have done it would have been to set up fundraisers to see if we could replace the money.
“The other option we looked at was pulling things out of the cupboards that we don’t use much and trying to sell them on e-Bay to get some funds in.
“So for Howard to do this for us is absolutely brilliant, and the kids are over the moon.”
Anyone with information about the theft can contact police on 101.