Thief strands kids at Camp Gifford

SPOKANE - The Salvation Army is now a statistic, joining a growing group victimized by theft. Sometime between Wednesday and Friday, thieves took something off their campus that stranded 42 kids at Camp Gifford.

Around 8 a.m. Friday, The Salvation Army's bus driver got ready to pick up 42 kids at Camp Gifford, located at Loon Lake. He turned the key to start the engine and nothing happened.

'Perhaps it was a dead battery,' he thought. But it was much worse.

"We thought [the bus] would be safe being right out here on Ruby where everyone could see it," Captain Kyle Smith said, referring to the bus' location at Ruby and Indiana.

The big red Salvation Army bus is useless now, because someone needed quick money.

"We need the bus, it's hard to pick up 42 kids when you don't have a bus," Smith said.

Smith says someone ripped the battery out of their bus sometime between Wednesday and Friday morning, in plain sight and without much difficulty.

According to Kraig Cross with Mobile Auto Doc, the location of the battery on the bus makes it an easy job.

"They got in here," he said lifting a small compartment on the side of the bus. "They whacked the cables, obviously just opened it up, found the big battery in here."

It happens all the time, Cross says. In fact, a majority of his calls are dealing with stolen car parts. He's been to the area of Ruby and Indiana three times in recent weeks and all of the calls have been for stolen batteries.

"They're making probably $10 or $15 per battery, but if they do enough of these a night it's all free money for them," Cross said.

It's a fixable theft, but still inconvenient for parents who sent their kids to Camp Gifford this week. Tammy Syers' daughters were supposed to return Friday morning. Instead, she spent the morning waiting.

"I've never had to really worry, they always have some kind of backup, no matter what," Syers said.

The Salvation Army dispatched multiple family vans to help bring the kids back to town and by 11 o'clock in the morning all of the campers were back in the arms of their parents.

A couple young camp-goers had some choice words for the thief: "Whoever stole that battery, you're a jerk!" Anthony said with a smile.

Similar sentiments came from Captain Kyle Smith.

"Whoever they are I hope they're watching, I hope they feel guilty and come and say they're sorry, we'll embrace them," Smith said.

Replacing the bus battery isn't a cost The Salvation Army can afford easily, but with 200 kids in and out of camp every week they need the transportation.

If you know anything about this crime or can help The Salvation Army contact Sheila Geraghty at 509-329-2726.