By Jesse Floyd/ Staff Writer
Barb Dembrowski worked hard to raise $200 for the Bella Tucker Foundation, selling $2 bracelets from the mailroom at Burlington High School where she worked.
Bella Tucker is an 8-year old resident of Londonderry, N.H., whose roots go back through Chelmsford and, it seems, dozens of surrounding towns. Around Easter, Bella was stricken with an infection that nearly killed her. She survived, but tissue damage forced doctors to amputate her arms and her legs. She appears to be out of medical danger, but life for her and her family has changed.
Dembrowski’s learned of Bella’s condition through her daughter in law, connected to Bella’s family through her daycare work.
She was devastated when the envelope containing the money and her iPod vanished. According to Pam Eaton, who works with her, Principal Patrick Larkin and a custodian combed through Dembrowski’s office but found no trace of the missing items.
The theft was discovered Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday, the money had been replaced and then some following the annual teacher’s lunch at Outback Steakhouse at 34 Cambridge St.
“Karen Lockney came up to me before the luncheon and told me we had to make an announcement for Barb,” Eaton said.
The luncheon at Outback is provided by donations to the Sunshine Club, a group designated to creating a positive atmosphere at the high school. It’s been held at Outback for the past five years. It’s about the only time teachers are given more than 20 minutes to bolt their food before returning to class.
“It’s a chance for us all to get together and relax,” she said.
Each year, Eaton makes a few announcements prior to lunch. This year, the first announcement was about Dembrowki’s loss.
“Before I’d finished talking, the owner, Jennifer Schwartz, came up and gave me a $500 personal check for Bella,” Eaton said.
“I’m really big into the community,” said Schwartz. “I just moved from Palm Beach, Fla. It’s important to let people know we care.
“When I saw Bella’s picture, I thought, ‘What a brave little girl,’ and it broke my heart.
Schwartz said when she learned the money initially raised for the foundation had been stolen, she stopped serving customers and looked for her checkbook.
“It came straight from my heart,” she said.
In addition to Schwartz’s donation, a bucket set up to collect donations netted $100. One of the waitresses wrote a check for $25.
When it came time to settle the tab with the outback, Eaton got another nice surprise: The restaurant asked for $200 of the amount owed by the Sunshine Club. The rest was to go to the Bella Tucker foundation.
“It was a wonderful reminder that there are generous, kind and compassionate people in the world,” Eaton said.