A festive fundraising stall in aid of Hartlepool's Alice House Hospice was targeted by thieves on its first day.
Someone stole £15 from the Trees of Remembrance stall in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre where people can place a bauble
and a tribute message to a lost loved one on a Christmas tree for a small donation.
The stall opened on Tuesday, but sometime between it closing at 5pm and the centre closing at 6pm, a trunk containing the money was broken into and damaged and the money stolen.
Senior Fundraising Manager, Julie Hildreth said: “It is sad that someone would target our stall in this way, the Trees of Remembrance have been a long standing tradition and it is worrying that someone would see it as an opportunity to steal money that would be used to fund the care services that we deliver to people and families living with life limiting illnesses.
“We would however like to say thank you to everyone for the messages of support and kind donations that we have received since the incident.
"We won’t let something like this deter us from our priority, which in this case is to generate money to provide support to our patients.”
The hospice said has caused concern as it is the first time that it has ever happened and was also distressing for the volunteers who discovered the crime this morning.
Centre security staff and the police have both been informed.
The stall, staffed entirely by volunteers, runs up until the week before Christmas. It is located outside Specsavers, who also sponsor the stall.
Individual trees are also sponsored by Clarks, Darlington Building Society, Twenty3 Taxis, F. Shotton and W.A. Smith Insurance.