OCEAN PINES — An Ocean Pines business was burglarized early last Wednesday morning and among the items stolen was a donation can containing several hundred dollars collected by the store owner in honor of her late daughter who lost her courageous battle with colon cancer last year.
Around 12:45 a.m. last Wednesday, an unknown suspect broke into the Copy Central business on Cathell Rd. near Ocean Pines. When the business owner took inventory of the store after the break-in, she learned a very personal item containing a significant amount of cash had been stolen in addition to the seemingly less important money in the cash register. Copy Central owner Linda Dearing lost her daughter Gina Maria Barnes last year after a lengthy battle with colon cancer.
In the months since, Dearing had set up the Gina’s Warriors Comfort Fund to perpetuate the character, ideals and goals of her late daughter. The fund was created to provide resources to individuals undergoing colon cancer treatment and provide financial assistance to allow them to concentrate on themselves, their families and getting well.
Among its many stated purposes, the fund could be used to provide equipment that might advance to diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer, provide gift cards for food, gas, transportation or other comfort items for patients, offer free massage, acupuncture or other pain therapy treatments or cover the cost of wigs and other cancer-related supplies. Dearing said as part of the fundraising effort, the donation can had been placed on the counter in her business since April and contained at least $750, until it was swiped during a break-in early last Wednesday morning.
“When we started to look around, it never occurred to me that they would take Gina’s comfort fund,” she said. “It didn’t really bother me that they took money from the register and I was happy they didn’t destroy the store, but when I figured out they took that can, it just broke my heart. It is still so emotional for me.”
Dearing said the building, which is shared by multiple businesses, is equipped with a video surveillance system that captured images of the suspect attempting to enter the facility. The Maryland State Police is handling the investigation since the business is located outside Ocean Pines and Dearing said she spoke with investigators this week and no new information has been developed. She described the suspect as a white male in his late 40s or early 50s wearing a baseball-style cap at the time of the burglary.
“He walked around the building several times and strangely enough, it looked like he was talking to someone on his cell phone for instructions on how to find a way in,” she said. “He finally found a way to get in through an adjacent building and gain access to a hallway to my business.”
While some cash was taken from the register, it appears the target might have been the Gina’s Comfort Fund donation jar, suggesting the suspect had perhaps been in the store before.
“I think they knew it was in there,” she said. “I think they were on a mission. It’s just my opinion, but I really think they broke in there to get money to buy drugs.”
Dearing’s frustration was less about the break-in itself and more about the stolen donation fund.
“We had been collecting since April and I think there was at least $750 in there and maybe as much as $1,000,” she said. “We live in a great community and people are just so giving, but there are bad apples everywhere. That’s what so emotional for me. This was not just a crime against me, it was a crime against the entire community.”
Dearing said this week she was undaunted by the set-back and would start the fund all over and continue to spread the word about colon cancer awareness.
“We’re trying to make people aware that it’s just not an old person disease,” she said. “You don’t hear much about colon cancer. Gina’s birthday was July 1 and this happened just days later.”