The theft of a scooter, a young boy's present before the amputation of his left leg, has outraged the citizens of Bakersfield.
The unsolved crime has been met with an outpouring of offers to replace the scooter and other things stolen from Ethan Perez.
"Bakersfield gets so many jokes about being a bad place to live but after seeing the love that so many people have for my boy, it's unbelievable," said Debbie Landry, Ethan's mother.
Ethan's father, Tony Perez, said he first pitched the story of Ethan's upcoming surgery to a news outlet because he wanted to show there are inspiring people like Ethan out there who can change your life.
The response from the community following news of the subsequent theft has only furthered that message, Tony said.
"To see what's going on right now, it just makes me believe there's more good out there than evil," he said.
Ethan is set to have his leg amputated because two tumors have left him unable to walk on it for about two years. Ethan has arteriovenous malformation and suffers from frequent pain because of the disease, as The Californian reported Sunday.
On Wednesday, the Perez family's northwest Bakersfield home was burglarized and Ethan's video games, iPod and expensive push scooter nabbed. His parents bought him the scooter as a present for his upcoming surgery to amputate his leg, which has not been scheduled yet.
The break-in left the house trashed and the family shaken. Bakersfield police Detective Uriel Pacheco said no arrests have been made but the case is still open.
Ethan's reaction to the theft of his scooter was "just like, 'Dang-it, my amputation's present is gone, lost,'" he said Friday.
But since The Californian reported news of the burglary Thursday, the Perez family has been fielding offers to buy Ethan a new scooter and replace his stolen iPod.
On Friday night, police officers brought Ethan video games and a $150 gift card for a video game store, Tony said, and next week Ethan is getting a visit from Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall.
"We're so thankful and grateful and astonished (by) how thoughtful and kind the whole community has been. It's amazing and it's really nice to see that," Tony said.
Readers who called The Californian on Thursday and Friday asking how they could help Ethan said they were appalled by the crime and their hearts went out to the boy and his family.
"It's horrible. I cannot believe that there are sick people out there who can go out and do this," said Robin Brassfield-Cooper. "I'm livid."
Like others, Brassfield-Cooper wanted to help replace some of the stolen items, saying she hated to think that he would be under any more stress than the surgery he is already facing.
A teacher at Fruitvale Junior High School, where Ethan's older brother, Cole Perez, goes to school, was the first to offer to replace his scooter, Landry said. Leslie Roberts, interim principal at the junior high, said the student council is planning to do fundraisers for the family on campus as well.
"He's part of our family and we want to help their family," she said.
Another woman was coming to the family's home Friday night to bring a replacement for his pilfered iPod, Landry said.
Ethan said it feels "really good" that someone he hadn't even met wanted to replace his surgery present.
The fourth-grader still felt "a lot scared" and wondered if the burglars are going to come back, but he said he is grateful for all the offers to help.
"I would like to put (out) a message saying to all the people,'Thank you for everything you are doing, it's really helping me a lot. Thank you, thank you thank you,'" Ethan said.
Landry said there is a positive lesson in the unfortunate event.
"I tell (my sons) over and over, 'Look, something bad happened, but look at the good, I mean the good is coming back 20-fold,'" Landry said.
Tony said he told Ethan he's going to have to write thank-you notes for all the support. He'll have plenty to write.