When he learned that someone had stolen the tree from the park off of the first block of South Salado Avenue, his surprise turned to shock and sadness.
“I thought, oh man, that’s really crazy — I wouldn’t have thought someone would want to steal a tree,” he said Tuesday, Dec. 4. “That’s hurtful, because the kids had done all that work, but that’s the way it goes. It’s not going to stop us from doing it again next year.”
The Christmas tree, accompanied by wooden cutouts of Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck, was one of nearly 70 trees decorated as part of the annual display hosted by Soroptimist International of Patterson.
The tree appears to have been stolen some time between 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, when one of Boothby’s aides most recently saw it, and 7 a.m. Monday, when Boothby visited the park, Boothby said. He said he was happy that the wooden cutouts at least had not been taken.
He notified his students of the tree theft later on Monday, and said that many of them were disappointed, though he tried to make light of the situation, saying that whoever took it must have needed a tree. The class he teaches includes students with various special needs, including Down syndrome, autism, speech impairments and learning disabilities, he said.
The tree included laminated drawings, ribbons, felt, glitter and baked ornaments made of salt and dough.
The Soroptimists have been supportive of the class, Boothby said, and even offered to buy a replacement tree. But Boothby said it would take too much time for the class to decorate a new one.
The St. Vincent de Paul thrift store on South El Circulo also was helpful, donating decorations for a Christmas tree that is being placed inside Boothby’s classroom, Boothby said.
Juanzette Hunter, who coordinates the annual tree decorating campaign for the Soroptimists, said she hoped the community would have more appreciation for the work of the students and refrain from stealing their project.
“If someone has a need (for a tree), please ask,” Hunter said. “Stealing is not the reason for the season.”
Rick Barron, who owns Blues Café just down the street from South Park on the first block of South Del Puerto Avenue, is offering a $100 reward to anyone who provides information that results in the capture of the thief.
“It just bugs the heck out of me that people are stealing,” Barron said.
For information: Blues Café, 892-5282.
Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.