When children attending Soggy Bottoms Too daycare showed up Monday morning, an unpleasant site welcomed them. Their playground equipment was gone.
Soggy Bottoms Too Owner Frances Woods said that many of the children thought the playground equipment had been “blown away.”
“Kids love to be outside. When a kid looks at you and they have tears in their eyes because there is nothing to play with. It is hurtful,” Woods noted.
It wasn’t wind that took the equipment but rather thieves, who struck Saturday afternoon.
Thanks to the efforts of some Williamsburg police officers and the Williamsburg Wal-Mart, the children now have new playground equipment to play on, which was delivered by two officers late Monday afternoon.
Soggy Bottoms Too daycare is located in Cumberland Regional Mall, and the day care has a small fenced off area behind the mall where the playground equipment sat.
Bird said that Williamsburg police were notified Monday morning about the theft and determined through the mall’s security camera footage that the theft took place about 2:15 p.m. Saturday.
The security camera footage showed two males and one female folding up the small equipment and loading it inside a 2007 light blue Mazda 4-door car with Kentucky license plate 985-RYN, Bird said.
“They made a couple of trips and came back until they got most of it,” Bird said.
Police announced late Tuesday afternoon that they had identified two of the suspects as Arthur D. Hill, 49, and Amanda L. Rogers, also known as Amanda L. Johnson, 33. Active warrants are on file for these individuals, and anyone with information about their whereabouts is asked to contact Williamsburg police at 549-6038 or 549-6017.
“It’s pathetic,” Bird said about the thieves. “When you get to the point you are breaking into churches or stealing from kids that is the low of the low as far as I am concerned. I don’t think you can get much lower than that. You are one desperate individual to pull up to a daycare and steal kids playground equipment.”
Police estimated that the stolen playground equipment was worth about $450.
Detective Bobby Freeman said that it upset him when he learned about the theft.
“These children have to have something to play with here in the daycare,” Freeman said. “When we got here, everything that they play with besides a couple of things had been stolen.”
Freeman said that he and other officers decided to help out and try and get some donations so the kids would have something to play with.
“We are fortunate to have a Wal-Mart here that really cares about the community. Any time something like this happens, our Wal-Mart always steps forward,” Bird added. “Wal-Mart took an almost $400 piece of playground equipment and discounted it all but $53.”
Freeman, Deputy Chief Jason Caddell, K-9 Officer Brandon Prewitt and Gina Hamblin, an employee at Williamsburg City Hall, donated the remaining money from to purchase the new equipment.
“Things are bad all over the United States right now. Any time that we can give back to the community we will,” Freeman said.
He thinks this is something that the children will remember for a long time.
In addition, Bird said several officers checked around their homes for any old toys or equipment they had, which their own children had either outgrown or no longer played with and also took that to the daycare.
Bird said he found a tricycle at his home.
Touched by support
Woods said she was shocked when she heard about what the officers had done.
“I was amazed. It brought tears to my eyes. People think that police are just there to protect you but they have great big hearts,” Woods noted. “We are lucky to live in a city like Williamsburg. If one of us is hurting then we are all hurting. We all chip in to help each other out. It is just overwhelming what they did for us.”
Woods said that after she put up the information about the theft on the daycare’s Facebook page, she got quite a bit of response.
Within 15 minutes, Woods said one lady had brought them a slide and a riding cart. Another lady called offering to bring some toys and a man called saying that he planned to bring some toys to them Tuesday morning.
“This just goes back to the quality of the town we live in. It is just a home town and people are willing to help people,” she added.
Woods said that the officers went above and beyond the call of duty.
“They have hearts. They are very loving, caring people,” she said.
Plans for future
Woods said that the daycare now plans to put locks on their gates, and the mall is installing an additional security camera.
“We are going to cement some things down to make them a little bit harder to take,” she added. “Shame on them. Hopefully they will realize that crime doesn’t pay. I would just say to them look at the children. You didn’t hurt just me. You hurt children. If you need money that bad why didn’t you just ask somebody?”
“We have good community support here but I would just like people to know that there are lots of things that police do behind the scenes,” Bird said. “This is not something that we just came up with today. These are things that police officers do on a daily basis. We do this kind of stuff all the time because we care about our community. We especially care about the kids in our community.”
Bird added that police frequently run into children, who are afraid of police for various reasons.
“We don’t want kids to be afraid of us. We want them to see what we do in a good light. I hope that this is something that they will remember,” Bird said.