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Group: $10,000 In Fundraising Prizes Stolen From L.I. Wildlife Rescue Center

HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A hospital center in the Hamptons that saves and treats sick and injured baby animals was the victim of a heist overnight Thursday into Friday.

Jim Hunter, board president of the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, said someone broke into the building Wednesday night and stole $10,000 in prizes for two upcoming fundraisers, as well as $50 in cash from a donation jar.

And as CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported Friday, volunteers and staff have been pleading with whoever broke in to return the valuable gift certificates.

Fundraising Prizes Stolen From L.I. Wildlife Rescue Group

The burglar was armed with a crowbar and broke through several doors, jimmied locks, and ransacked offices as helpless animals slept nearby.

"Very upsetting to come in – very scary," said wildlife center executive director Virginia Frati. "My first thought was the animals – thank goodness the animals were OK. Then we saw the damage and destruction."

The nonprofit provides medical care for injured, abandoned, and orphaned wild animals. It depends on its spring fling silent auction to raise funds.

Prizes included an overnight stay at Oheka Castle, and gift certificates for dinners, stores, sporting events, and golf outings.

"The gift certificates were kept in a folder here, and everything was just all over the floor and the gift certificates were gone," Frati said.

The certificates were going to be used for a silent auction event on May 16 and at another fundraiser in June.

"Each year, we have the silent auction which brings in a good part of our funding for the year to take care of the animals," Frati told WCBS 880's Sophia Hall. "It's just devastating because, obviously, the events aren't going to do as good without these certificates."

The animals at the wildlife center are awaiting surgery. Some are blind or missing limbs, while others have been hit by cars, fell out of nests, were maimed by fishhooks, were victims of hunting accidents, and were even bitten by cats and dogs.

The thief also grabbed the donation door as he ran out the door.

"This was emptied out – completely empty," Frati said as she held the empty jar.

"They didn't take the can, but they took all the change in it," Hunter told 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera. "This time of year it's very horrible because we have all these baby animals coming in -- baby squirrels, baby rabbits, baby birds -- and anybody who would steal money from baby animals is not a really good person in my view."

Fundraising Prizes Stolen From L.I. Wildlife Rescue Group

The volunteers and staff at the wildlife center were deeply shaken.

"We're a nonprofit. We're just out here to here to help the animals," said Jack Corcoran of the wildlife center. "And for somebody to just blatantly come in, destroy property, steal money -- it's just hard to understand."

Hunter said donors have been notified about the theft.

"When somebody tries to cash them in they're going to meet some resistance," he said.

Frati said they just want the gift certificates back.

"If they could just come back and leave them at the front door, we would not press any kind of charges," she said.

Investigators working on the wildlife theft asked that if residents spot the stolen certificates being sold, traded or cashed in, they should call Southampton police at once.

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