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Autism camp to re-open after thieves stole A.C. unit - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Autism camp to re-open after thieves stole A.C. unit

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -

NBC 12 crews were on hand as repairmen came to the rescue of a Henrico school targeted by thieves who stole the entire A.C. Those criminals stole more than air conditioning. They stole the fun and adventure of camp for the 40 young people with autism who come there every day.

Fast repair workers and a determined school staff mean all of the children at The RAIN (Richmond Autism Integration Network) center for children will be back open Thursday. The school isn't the only place thieves targeted.

"We were preparing to go on a field trip when one of our directors noticed that our trash had been dumped on the back patio," said Louise Riendeau with RAIN.

That was only the beginning.

"The trash can was crushed which appears whoever had done this tried to climb the fence using that trash can," Riendeau added.

The center for children with autism left with a broken fence, a shattered gate, and a stolen A.C. unit.

"The unit was right here and it's clearly gone," she pointed out.

Turns out -- another unit on site had also been tampered with.

"They did try to get this one and they left freon running on the ground," Riendeau said.

"We have about 40 students who are not here today," said Director Robin Davis.

She had to send students home Tuesday and shut down camp Wednesday. That's when they learned, they weren't the only business hit.

"One side is working. The other side is not working because the units are taken out… two units gone. All the copper lining is taken out too," said Leela Reddy, a manager at 7-Eleven.

At both locations- cooling crews arrived Wednesday to replace the A.C. units. The crime has hit the center for children with autism the hardest.
It spent much of this year just getting the building up to state regulations.

"We were already facing financial difficulties having 5 months of no income. We've been working very diligently to get caught up on our rent here and the summer program was going to be how we really solved that issue," Riendeau said.

"Why would you do this? This is just wrong. Doing this to kids with special needs, now they can't come to camp," said 13 year old student Cole Riendeau.

After a lightening fire destroyed a gazebo and fence there just last month, it set the non-profit center back. Now, they're back at square one. But leaders are putting this crime behind them and preparing to re-open Thursday. The RAIN center has an on-going fundraising effort to help leaders continue offering services for children with autism.

Copyright 2014 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.

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