PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - Who would steal from Girl Scouts on the 4th of July? That's what troop leaders in Sevier County are wondering after someone took their cash box with several thousand dollars inside.
This was the first year for this fundraiser by the Smoky Shadows Service Unit, made up of 18 Girl Scout troops in Sevier County. They rented a booth during the Patriot Festival to sell souvenirs and snacks to the crowd.
The fireworks show at Patriot Park in Pigeon Forge had just begun when Girl Scout troop leader Sheron Duckworth saw a hand reach out of the dark and into their tent, grabbing their cash box.
"That's the part I play back over in my mind all the time, the hand coming in and grabbing it and if I'd just jumped on it and been quicker," she said.
In that box, she estimated, was between $2,000 and $4,000, most of the proceeds from a hard days work by dozens of Girl Scouts and their leaders..
"It was fun to look across the crowd, because we also had glow sticks, you could see the crowd all lit up and you knew they'd all helped support Girl Scouts," Duckworth said.
She couldn't just let all that money go, so she took off running.
"It was probably a quarter mile to a half mile I chased him, but he went around a corner and I lost sight of him," she said.
Girl Scout Rebekah Hemphill, 11, took the news hard.
"I'm kind of sad that we did all that work and someone stole all the money that we earned," she said.
She'd spent several hours under the hot sun selling to the crowd.
"It felt good that people actually bought stuff and everyone was having a great time," Hemphill said.
She's confident justice will be served.
"I think they'll catch him because the money was for a good cause," Hemphill said.
Her troop leader said she'll make sure nothing like this happens again.
"We definitely will guard it with our little lives next year! They'll have to knock me down and stomp on me before they get it, not just run fast!" Duckworth said.
The stolen money was going to be used for Girl Scout uniforms, service projects and scholarships. Leaders hope to make up the difference with more fundraising. They said Mountain National Bank has set up an account for anyone who wants to donate.
The thief is described as a white male, approximately six feet tall with medium length dark hair. He was wearing jeans and a dark T-shirt. If you have any information, please call the Pigeon Forge Police Department at 865-453-9063.