NORTH MIAMI, FLA. (WSVN) - Two brothers have been arrested in connection to a trailer stolen from a North Miami home, said to be filled with $5,000 worth of toys for children with cancer.
The trailer was stolen from a gated community, early Monday morning, and was later found in Sunrise after police received a tip. Since then, two arrests have been made.
“I am ecstatically happy, and I am so thankful to friends who actually saw the trailer and called the Sunrise police department,” said Silvia Vanni, the victim. “This really means a lot. All of these toys help those kids, who spend weeks to months out of time inpatient, have a little fun and be like normal kids.”
Most of the toys were returned after police pried open a shed at the home where the trailer was found. “I was so excited that they were there,” said Vanni. “I honestly did not believe we were gonna get anything back.”
Although all the toys weren’t returned, a local pastor donated $1,000 in Target gift cards for Vanni to buy more toys for her foundation, the Mystic Force Foundation.
Vanni took the time to thank those who shared the information about the stolen trailer. “I wanna thank everybody who shared,” she said. “We had 1,300 shares on Facebook, which is how this trailer was recovered.”
She added that the thieves may not have known what they stole when the trailer was taken. “I honestly don’t think they knew what they were stealing, but I think once they opened it up and saw the toys and all of the Mystic Force and Childhood Cancer everywhere, I don’t know how it didn’t touch their hearts and how they’re stealing from kids with cancer.”
Police later arrested 30-year-old, Dudley Merus along with his brother, 25-year-old Endy Michael Merus, in Sunrise, at around 2 a.m., Tuesday in connection to the theft.
The two later bonded out of jail.
Vanni said her organization used the black Freedom Trailer to collect toys for cancer-stricken children at a nearby hospital. “I work so hard to collect these toys for the kids, and so many generous people in our community and different companies that donate, and then somebody just comes along and steals it,” she said as she held back tears. “It’s not fair. It’s not right.”
The nonprofit organization raises funds for cancer research through lemonade stands and other events. It also holds monthly parties at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital so the young patients and their families can get a little break and have some fun.
“These kids are in the hospital for weeks to months at a time, so to have something to look forward to every month is really important,” said Vanni.
It’s something that Vanni knows firsthand. Her son, Salvatore, was a patient at the hospital after he was diagnosed with a neuroblastoma, a rare cancer. “You never really believe that it could happen to you,” she said.
The 7-year-old lost his life in 2011, but his mother hasn’t stopped fighting to help other families. “He just loved having parties. Every day was a party for him, so this is what I know in my heart is what he wants me to do,” said Vanni.
Vanni said if she had not got the trailer back, the parties would have gone on as planned, even if she had to pay out of pocket. “That’s what keeps me going. I know how much my baby would have loved doing that, and that’s why I continue,” she said.
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