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Turlock mothers determination not dampened by donation thief
donation theft1
Turlock Police are seeking the identity of this woman, who is suspected of stealing an autism donation box from a 7-11 store. - photo by Photo Contributed


Stephanie Shabazian is used to overcoming setbacks.

When her son was diagnosed at age two and a half with autism, she set out to learn everything she could about the development disorder. She became involved with Autism Speaks and committed herself to fundraising efforts. So, when she learned a thief had stolen her box of donations she faced it like she has so many other challenges — with resiliency.

“It just makes me want to chug on even harder,” Shabazian said.

Shabazian is in the process of raising funds for the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event set for Oct. 18. Autism Speaks is the leading autism science and advocacy organization. The funds generated are used primarily for research, awareness, and helping families get the needed therapies and treatments. The group uses a puzzle piece as their symbol and often sells pieces for fundraising campaigns.

Shabazian’s commitment to raise funds are for her son Andrew Shabazian, 9, and her efforts have included placing a “Team Shabazian” donation box and puzzle pieces at the 7-11 store at 3420 W. Monte Vista Avenue. The box had been at the store for about a week and the donations were steadily climbing when someone snatched them all away.

An as yet unidentified woman grabbed the box of money late Wednesday night. According to the store personnel, the woman had been in and out of the store several times that day and they now suspect she was waiting for the right opportunity to grab the donation box.

Surveillance footage captured an image of the woman as she entered the store and the car she was seen leaving in.

“I was in shock when I first heard about it,” Shabazian said. “I couldn’t believe someone would stoop that low to steal from children.”

It’s estimated the thief got away with about $50 in donations.

Shabazian says there is a silver lining already peeking through on this story. Since the theft she has set up a new donation box (this one secured down) and the donations have increased dramatically.

“Right away 7-11 put $30 in and in the last two days we’ve collected $179,” Shabazian said. “It shows there are good people out there.”

Shabazian has also set up an account at Citibank to collect donations. The account is under Andrew Shabazian.

Anyone with information about the theft or the identity of the woman is asked to contact Turlock Police Officer Gina Giovacchini at 668-5550 ext. 6746.