RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - Help is on the way for a group of Palm Beach County special needs children after their school was targeted by thieves. The community is answering the school's plea for help, just in time for the holidays.
Donations have come in from local businesses and also from members of the public who are choosing to help after hearing about what happened at Potentials Charter School in Riviera Beach.
Even with the Christmas tree shining bright in his Palm Beach Gardens home, Mees Simon's smile still lights up the room. He suffered permanent brain damage after contracting meningitis as a baby. Ten years later, Mees is unable to walk or talk.
"Even though they are trapped in their bodies, they are smart kids in there and they can express themselves," said Judith Simon, Mees' mother.
Mees and the thirty other kids who attend The Arc of Palm Beach County's Potentials Charter School had the ability to express themselves after thieves stole some of their school's equipment from them last week. Thieves snatched crucial computer technology that these special needs kids use to communicate.
Since the story went public, the community stepped up and stepped in. "We've actually had strangers just come in and say 'we heard about the story'," said Tiffany North of The Arc of Palm Beach County.
Thousands of dollars in donations, new iPads - even well wishes - have come pouring in, said North. "To see them to be able to interact with the teachers again in the classroom, to be able to work on some of that equipment, I can't express it," she said. "It definitely gives joy to all of us." The break-in cost the school about $10,000.
As new vital equipment makes its way back to the facility, kids like Mees and their families have found another reason to smile this holiday season. "I get the chills. It's just great," said Judith. "That's what Christmas is all about."
Potentials Charters School is working to replace all of the stolen equipment and also to strengthen the security system in and around the Australian Avenue facility.
Riviera Beach police say they are making progress in tracking down those responsible, but no arrests have been made.
Donors to Potentials Charter School include BBX Capital (formerly Hoffman's Chocolates), the Palm Beach Kennel Club , Gary Roberts & Associates , and the Honda Classic , among many others in the community.