By Erin Dueñas
Community members from Rocky Point and Sound Beach opened their wallets and their hearts over the weekend to replace a local family’s lost Disney vacation fund.
Sound Beach mother of three Kerri Bové had $1,000 cash in an envelope tucked in her purse on April 1, ready to use the funds to pay back a friend who had laid out the money for plane tickets to the amusement park.
Bové first had to drop her daughter off at a local gymnastics center where she used some of that cash to pay for tickets to an upcoming recital.
“I went to hand over my credit card to pay for the tickets when they told me it was cash only,” Bové said.
While a line formed behind her, she said she carefully thumbed through the Disney money to get out the amount she needed for the recital tickets.
In midst of the transaction, Bové started a conversation with her daughter’s gymnastics teacher and tended to her crying 2-year-old. She then left the facility to stop at the bank to replace the cash she had just used for the recital, and headed out to meet her friend to pay her for the tickets.
Less than a half hour later, Bové was tearing apart her car and her purse, searching everywhere for the money but it was nowhere to be found.
“My heart was pounding, I was searching frantically,” Bové said. “It was totally gone.”
In a panic, Bové called the gymnastics place hoping she had left the envelope there, but they said they couldn’t find it. She drove back to see if she dropped it in the parking lot, but still turned up empty.
“I was getting choked up thinking about all the months we spent planning this trip,” Bové said, noting that her husband Ray had been working 16-hour days, seven days a week to pay for it. “I was sick to my stomach. There was no way we would be able to pay my friend back and re-buy the tickets.”
The couple filed a police report, but the officer told them there was little chance that the money would turn up. That night, she took to the Rocky Point and Sound Beach community pages on Facebook to make a plea to the person who took the money.
“Please I beg you if you know anything or accidently took the money PLEASE return it,” Bové wrote. “I know we live in a good community and I want to show my children there are good, honest people in this world.”
“I was hoping the person who took it would see it,” Bové said. “I wanted them to just return it and to know that my kids were devastated.”
Bové said that the trip would be the first her family had taken since suffering a series of losses over the past few years, including the sudden deaths of her brother and nephew, as well as the death of her father just last year.
“We were so looking forward to it since the past couple of years had been so hard for us.”
Bové said she never dreamt of the response she got to her post. Soon community members sought to replace the $1,000. Roseann Sobczak and Mary Heely, neither of whom Bové had met, put out the call on Facebook to get the money back.
“I was devastated for them,” Heely of Rocky Point said. “I thought to myself I wish I had a $1,000 to give them and then thought, what if everyone could donate a little and maybe then we could recoup the loss.”
Sound Beach’s Kristen Abbondondelo jumped at the idea. She decorated a box in Mickey Mouse paper and sat in the gymnastics center for six hours while donations from people that had seen the Facebook post trickled in.
Abbondondelo estimated that at least 50 people dropped off money that day and still more donated the next day when the box was posted at another location in Rocky Point.
“They were all there to right a wrong and to show how much they cared,” she said. “People were concerned about there not being enough.”
Bové said her family was able to recoup the loss and the trip is on for May. She said she was greatly touched by the messages included with the donations. One child drew a picture of Cinderella’s castle and told the family to have fun. Another note was decorated with rainbows and hearts. One said how grateful they were to be part of the Rocky Point community. Yet another included the message that “miracles do happen.”
“It put pure happiness in my heart that my community did this for me,” Bové said. “It regained my faith that there are so many who are good.”
Bové said she credits her angels in heaven — her brother, nephew and father — and the ones on Earth for the happy ending.
“I feel my angels pulled through for me,” she said. “That the whole community pulled through for us, it is something we will never forget.”