GREEN BAY – Sometimes there really are Grinches who steal Christmas.
Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark’s second annual holiday toy drive in his hometown of San Bernardino, Calif., was robbed sometime in the last few days.
Clark told reporters on Thursday a big shed behind his mother’s house where she had been storing up the toy donations all year was broken into and cleaned out. Clark estimated more than $5,000 worth of toys was stolen, including everything from bikes for older kids to smaller items for toddlers, designated for 200-300 children in his home area.
“It’s crazy because you work so hard, you’re trying to do something good for the community, and somebody does something crazy like that,” Clark said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s never good. The good thing is the toy drive is still going to go on. We had a lot of stuff coming in today.”
A gofundme page was set up briefly to raise money to replace what was stolen. With the presentation of the toys at a local San Bernardino church scheduled for late Thursday afternoon, donations were cut off around lunchtime so organizers could go shopping and make the best of a disappointing situation. (Update: The gofundme page was reopened for future considerations, and donations can be made by clicking here.)
The Packers’ 2018 nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award, Clark just started this particular toy drive with his mom last year. It was an event he and his mom wanted to add in the winter to the football camp he hosts for kids in the summer back in his hometown as well.
Clark said his mom wasn’t sure exactly when the theft took place, but it was within the last few days based on the last time she checked the shed. The lock on it was found broken and a year’s worth of charity work was gone.
“The only thing that was left in it was a mousetrap,” said Clark, trying to keep his sense of humor as best he could.
“It’s just for a bunch of kids. It’s really difficult, especially for my family and my mom. She worked so hard throughout the whole year, putting it together. It’s a messed up situation.”
Clark said cameras set up around the house most likely filmed the theft, and his family will be working with local police to catch the thieves. He’s confident in getting to the bottom of it, but he admitted he doesn’t know right now if the perpetrators knew about the toy drive and his mom’s house was specifically targeted for the robbery, or if it was a random break-in.
Either way, as word spread around the Packers’ locker room on Thursday about what had happened, Clark’s teammates were shaking their heads like everybody else.
“It’s a shame. There’s no moral code or anything,” Clay Matthews said. “With those gifts and who they were going to, that’s unfortunate. Just scumbag people out there. You’d like to think people are better than that.”
Many are, like Clark and all those who donated at the last minute so the children could still get some toys at the church late Thursday as an early Christmas treat. And chances are, next year’s toy drive is going to be even bigger now.
“It means a lot. It’s supposed to be a great day for all families,” Clark said of the meaning of Christmas. “You’re supposed to be able to open up a gift and spend the whole day with your family. Family is the most important thing to me.”