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An Upstate group that works to prevent child abuse is now working to replace its Christmas parade float after it was stolen and stripped of its decorations.
The Defenders For Children's float was built two years ago by Pfc. Justin Whitmire of Simpsonville and his family. Whitmire was an Army medic training to become a doctor when he was killed in Afghanistan last December.
Defenders For Children's mission is to gain exposure for their organization and efforts to prevent child abuse.
Their float was ready to go for this year's holiday parades in Greenville and Spartanburg when the organization said it was stolen. They were able to recover the trailer but float decorations are gone.
"The kids named it just right," said Toni Clark, founder of Defenders For Children. "Truly the Grinch stole Christmas from us. I mean literally we have no float and we only have six weeks before the parade and we're very disappointed, upset and we don't really understand how anybody could even steal a Christmas float."
Their float has been in the Greenville parade for two consecutive years and was in the Spartanburg parade with NASCAR driver Jeremy Clements in 2011. They had more than 100 children and adults walk beside the float in 2011 to draw attention to child abuse.
The group is now looking for volunteers to help rebuild the float, and are in need of money to buy supplies, a warehouse space to build the float, plywood, Christmas lights and more. The rebuilt float will be dedicated in Whitmire's memory.
Anyone interested in helping Defenders For Children's Christmas Float Fund can email firstname.lastname@example.org or mail donations to Defenders for Children, C/O: Thermal Resource Sales, 120 Halton Road #20, Greenville, SC 29607.
Volunteers looking to help build a new float can sign up online.
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