Children's choir visiting from Africa burglarized

August 26, 2008 8:39:20 AM PDT
A children's choir from Africa targeted by thieves overnight will have a happy ending to their Chicago visit. A generous citizen wrote them a big check and the Chicago police tracked down some of their stolen possessions.Unfortunately, the items recovered are not the digital files and videos the choir was hoping to get back. Police continue to work on the case.

However, since this story has become public, many have offered donations, including a Chicago businessman who wanted the choir to know that the theft is not a reflection of the Chicago he knows.

It was an emotional moment Monday when Chicago businessman Tim Rand gave the founder of the Sifa African Children's choir a $5,000 donation to help recover the cost of the choir's stolen items. The kids thanked Rand with an impromptu performance.

After hearing the choir Rand doubled his donation. The $10,000 will help pay for the orphanage and school the choir is hoping to build in Uganda.

All 20 of these Ugandan children are orphaned by parents who have died of AIDS. The choir is on a six-month tour of the United States to raise money and awareness. Everything was going smoothly until a stop Sunday at a Southwest Side church. The choir's van was broken into. Stolen were laptop computers and video cameras containing discs and video of the tour.

"It's the pictures, it's the memories, it's the videos of everything that can't be replaced with money. We're hoping and praying that they'll return them," said Carrie Harless, Sifa African Children's Choir.

"Please let them bring back our things so that we can continue," said Rechear Nakabuye, choir member.

A break came in the case when some of the stolen items were in front of the church where the crime happened Sunday.

"They found the bank deposit stamps, endorsement stamps," said Harless.

But Harless learned the discs were blank, not the ones with all the pictures on them. Detectives are hoping church surveillance cameras will help find the person who dumped some of the stolen items.

Meantime, the show must go on.

"The kids are excited to perform and know that the terrible people that do this kind of thing can't take their hope and joy away, and we'll continue on," said Harless.

The choir is scheduled to perform Monday night in Oak Park at a nursing home. A Bridgeport performance Tuesday is the last in the Chicago area before the children head to Michigan.

While the choir continues to plea for return of the items that cannot be replaced, they are grateful for all the donations their story has generated.


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