MECHANICSVILLE, Va. -- It was early Saturday morning when Melissa Radley learned someone had taken a large inflatable Santa Claus balloon from outside her family's Mechanicsville home on Pole Green Road sometime Friday night.
"I was actually scared because it was just me and the kids at home that night," Radley said. "I also got mad really quickly because it is Christmas and if they had needed it to help their family, we would have given it to them. The Santa didn't cost a lot, but we work hard for what little we do have."
Later Saturday morning, Radley posted about the theft on the local Mechanicsville Trading Post Facebook page to let neighbors know about the theft. When her post started to get noticed, her husband and son encouraged her to take that awareness it to the next level.
"My husband made a joke about putting a sign on our nine-foot husky inflatable saying 'Bring Back Santa.' My autistic son, who is 11, wanted me to do it. He said, 'Mom I want our Santa back,'" Radley said. "So my daughter and I grabbed the poster board and drew the sign that now hangs around his neck."
While the thieves haven’t responded, Radley said the community has. Several people have posted messages of support and two families have donated inflatable Santa’s to the Hanover family, including a special one for 11-year-old Michael.
Radley hopes the sign leads to a happy ending for both her family and their missing Santa.
"It does make me think twice about putting up decorations," she said. "It has stopped us from finishing our set-up because we don't want anything else taken. We do this for our kids and the community to spread the joy of Christmas and it has put a damper on it."
While the family says they are disappointed in the thieves, they say they have renewed faith in humanity and truly understand the meaning of Christmas.
“I’m not alone,” says Michael. “I have a whole family in this world- my friends and my family.”