Heartless thieves targeted a children’s hospice at the same time as 130 people in Haywards Heath were staging a 12 hour Zumbathon to raise money for it.
The Zumba party started at Clair Hall at midnight on Sunday, led by Lindfield Zumba teacher Esther Featherstone.
It ran through to 1pm on bank holiday Monday and raised well over Esther’s £6,850 target, enough to pay for a day of care at Chestnut Tree House hospice.
But over the same weekend thieves scaled the fence of the hospice distribution centre in Broadwater, Worthing, and removed the engine from one of the charity’s vans.
The culprits dismantled the front of the van and lifted the engine back over the fence.
They also smashed the security lights and damaged the wall.
The hospice depot sorts and sends out stock to the 20 St Barnabas and Chestnut Tree House charity shops across Sussex to help raise much-needed funds.
Chestnut Tree is the only children’s hospice in Sussex and serves the whole region.
On its website, head of retail Colin Wakefield said: “I am appalled that anyone would target a charity.
“This is the second time this vehicle has been vandalised. We were going to repair it but as the cost of replacing the engine and repairing the latest damage will be over £1,000, we just cannot afford it and will probably end up having to write it off. Instead, we will have to spend money on improving our security measures in order to try and prevent this happening again.”
Mr Wakefield said the theft came at a difficult time due to the economic climate, with stock levels low and the charity struggling to find volunteers to help.
Meanwhile, Esther, whose pink hair has given her the nickname “the Pink Lady”, has joined others in wanting to help the organisation repair its vehicle.
She said her £6,850 target to pay for a day at Chestnut Tree House had been achieved and there was still a huge amount to come in.
However, after other generous donors came forward Esther has now been told her fundraising will pay for two days care plus an outing and a specialist pram.
The Zumba ‘party’ at Clair Hall saw over 80 supporters shimmying for the whole 12 hours and a further 50 joining in for up to six hours.
A regular supporter who recently moved back to Australia joined in via Skype for an hour at 2am on the Monday morning and two of the youngest participants, aged seven and nine, did 14 hours between them.
Esther said:“There was a distinct party atmosphere as the hospice celebrated its 10th birthday this year. Many of the supporters adorned fancy dress, some even changing every two hours! There were balloons, party bags and a big birthday card for well wishers to write messages for the children at the hospice. The finish at 1pm on the bank holiday Monday was marked by the local firemen visiting and sounding off the fire engines siren!
“I am amazed by the support this event received and extremely humbled by the generosity of the local community. Whether people did one hour, the full 12 hours, or merely came to cheer us on, I am just grateful they gave up their time and energy for an exceptionally worthy cause. “