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Bemidji pop-stand theft brings out good in people

BEMIDJI - Dana Zschokke and her family went from disillusionment to delight with the outpouring of empathy after the 9-year-old Laporte, Minn., girl was robbed of her refreshment-stand earnings.

BEMIDJI - Dana Zschokke and her family went from disillusionment to delight with the outpouring of empathy after the 9-year-old Laporte, Minn., girl was robbed of her refreshment-stand earnings.

Friday the 13th was an unlucky day for Dana, who had a pop-and-chip stand outside her grandmother's house on Bemidji's Beltrami Avenue.

A woman drove up, parked her black truck in front of the stand and started talking to Dana.

"The lady came out of her truck and started acting the part of the customer," said Dana's mom, Crystal.

The woman told Dana she had a dog and asked her if she would like to see it. While Dana looked, the woman grabbed her coin purse from the refreshment stand, jumped into her truck, and drove away. The coin purse held $8.22.

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"I saw the lady jump into the car with my purse," Dana said. "My mom told my sister to call the police."

Dana's sister, Keiko, 12, was sitting on the steps and saw the incident.

"My neighbors saw everything and hugged me," Dana said. "Then, I went in my grandma's house."

Her grandma is Sharon Smith. "I call her 'Granny,'" Dana said.

Dana wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the July 26 issue of the Pioneer, warning others about what had happened to her.

"Please let people know that this happened so it might not happen to other kids," she wrote in her letter.

Dana and her family were surprised by the attention the theft drew. She received supportive telephone calls and letters, and some people gave her money to more than make up for her loss.

"I'm going to save it up," Dana said.

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City of Bemidji employees were among those who gave Dana money. Caribou Coffee employees gave Dana their combined tips for a day, which totaled $31.

"I said thank you," Dana said.

"She took me and her sister to Caribou for some beverages," Crystal said.

Dana had planned to earn enough money with her refreshment stand to take her sisters and brothers out for ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. Crystal and Chris Zschokke have six children: Cody, 13; Keiko; Dana; Xavier, 7; Kiki, 5; and Brennen, 18 months; with a seventh due in October.

"I was shocked to hear first off that she was robbed," said Dana's dad, Chris. Later, he also was amazed by the supportive responses.

"The letters made me feel a little better," Dana said.

"We never expected to have anyone write to Dana," Chris said, noting that she wrote the letter to the editor so the same thing might not happen to other children. "I'm thoroughly impressed with the outpouring of the community and beyond."

One individual, a former resident who now lives in Arizona, learned of the theft and sent Dana $16.44, twice the amount that was stolen from her.

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"She plans on writing letters and drawing pictures for anyone who has sent her anything," Chris said.

Crystal doesn't think her daughter will have another refreshment stand for a while. But when she's ready to go back into business, Dana wants to install a lock box.

The Bemidji Pioneer and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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