Thief steals money meant to buy bikes for needy kids on Christmas Day

Alex's Christmas for Kids in 13th year

TAMPA - The pork takes a long time to cook for it to be tasty at Alex's Southern Style BBQ.

But restaurant owner Alex Cooks is doing the real slow burn.  Early Sunday morning, Cooks was called to his restaurant after someone broke in.

"We see a boulder in the middle of the floor, it was a little disturbing," said Cooks.

Reaching down just inside the front door today, Cooks picked up the heavy item.

"This is the rock right here.  And, I mean this is a heavy piece of rock to throw through the window," showed Cooks.

The thief took only one item.

"I noticed that the canister for the kids was gone," he recalled.

Including the money Cooks uses for his annual Alex's Christmas for Kids.

"Every year we go out and we purchase bikes for under-privileged kids in Hillsborough County," explained Cooks.

Cooks has been giving the bikes out Christmas morning since 1999.  And although it's still early in the giving season, the thief made off with about $500 when they stole the container that was chained and locked to the soda machine.

Video security footage from a nearby business captured the crook before and after the crime. The suspect is seen carrying the container in the night-vision video.

As word started getting out that Alex's Christmas bicycle fund money had been stolen, donations started rolling in.

"Every dollar counts ma'am, thank you very much," said Cooks into the phone after a woman called in and asked for the address, pledging to send in the $5 she could afford.

Julie Klapka frequently drives past the restaurant and decided to stop in on Monday.  She bought her lunch with a $100 bill and told Cooks to keep the change to help the kids.

"It's the season for giving and you've got to take bad things and turn them into good things," Klapka said.

Another man wrote a six-hundred dollar check.  One woman presented a check for five-hundred dollars from her company.

A replacement container eventually arrived and the new funds are well on their way to bringing Christmas cheer.

"We may bend, somebody may break a couple of windows, but the bike program is still going to go on.  With all the support of our loyal customers, friends and family, we're going to make it happen," smiled Cooks.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies are still trying to identify the thief. 

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