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Thieves steal classic car meant to raise money for MN fire chief with ALS

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Residents of a small Minnesota community are uniting to help their fire chief who was recently diagnosed with ALS, but car thieves have put a damper on the effort.

A Sept. 12 benefit for Chuck Gavin, the longtime fire chief of Caledonia, features a raffle with the top prize of a restored 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass (pictured above).

But over the weekend someone stole the bright blue car, according to a post on the Facebook page set up for the event.

Police Chief Kurt Zehnder says the car was likely stolen Sunday afternoon, according to KSTP. It had been parked inside at Dave's Auto Sales in Caledonia, a town of about 3,000 people in southeastern Minnesota.

Zehnder told KSTP the theft of the car is like a "slap in the face" to his community.

“To have this happen is devastating and cruel,” Zehnder said. “We take it seriously because we are a small community, and you know everybody.”

Comments on the event's Facebook page echoed that sentiment.

"I am beyond words. The sadness that lies behind all of this. The amount of caring and support that goes into helping a family in need, and someone has the odasity [sic] to steal from them. Such sadness."

"I am just heart broken, some low life has to steal this car which is being raffled off for a man who is already going through so much! I hope they find whoever did this!"

Since the car was stolen, several people have reported seeing two men driving it around the general area. But so far the thieves haven't been found.

The organizers of the benefit bought the Cutlass for about $15,000. They said they're confident they'll find another car to replace the stolen one, "of equal or greater value and hopefully just as beautiful," they said on Facebook.

Their goal is to sell 600 raffle tickets, which go for $100 each. So far they've sold about 350, according to KSTP.

Gavin has been with the Caledonia Fire Department for 24 years, and has been chief for 15 of them. His firefighters convinced him to stay on as chief for a while longer, although he's retired from his other job in a small engine shop.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that has no cure and is 100 percent fatal.

Anyone with information about the stolen car is asked to call the Caledonia Police Department at 507-725-3889.

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