DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO) – Joining the Girl Scouts Troop 709 in Carlisle, Iowa, has already had an impact on Marah Pearce, Madison Williams, and Abby Hugen.

“A whole bunch of my friends are from Girl Scouts, and that’s how I met them,” said 9-year-old Abby.

Ten-year-old Marah said they’ve learned life lessons at an early age. “You should always be kind to other people,” she said.

On Saturday, the three girls, along with two parents and troop leader Peggy Hugen, who is also Abby’s mom, were selling cookies from a booth in front of a Hy-Vee supermarket in Des Moines, Iowa — an activity that also helps build character, according to the troop leader.

“It’s not easy to put yourself out there in front of people and get rejected,” Hugen said.

But things took a turn for the unexpected just before 11:00 a.m., when a teenager with bad intentions approached the booth, according to a police report.

“This guy came up and acted like he was going to buy cookies,” said Madison, 9. “Then he just stole the donation box and ran off.”

“We were helping another customer and then he was there. And when the other customer left, he just snatched and ran,” added Marah.

The donation box contained $200 from people contributing tips or other donations, not necessarily cookie purchases.

“It made me disappointed that people would do that, but it also made me wonder why he did it,” Abby said.

The girls were shaken. Describing the situation as “heartbreaking,” Hugen said, “I kind of wanted to turn into mamma bear.”

The girls had hoped to use the money to help others. “We think we were going to give it to some people who have to go in and out from cars to do COVID tests,” Abby said.

Surveillance cameras are visible in the area where the theft occurred, but the suspect took off behind a Target next door and towards nearby apartments.

“They learned in their business, just like in any business, there is loss and there are bad things that happen, and you have to roll with it,” Hugen said.

Hy-Vee has stepped in to donate $200 to the troop. “His bad action was turned into a positive light,” Hugen said.

“The majority of people are good people,” Marah added, “and one bad thing that happened can’t just affect my whole place in Girl Scouts.”

Police are searching for the teenager who was seen Saturday wearing a red hoodie, a black mask and a camo green backpack.

As for Troop 709, the girls will be back at the Southridge Hy-Vee on Friday evening selling cookies and raising money to help others in the community.