MESA Ariz. The Pizza Fusion chain said it has set up a charitable fund to recover $8,000 stolen from a fundraiser at the grand opening of its newest restaurant here.
The money was stolen early Sunday morning after two burglars broke into the restaurant following a silent-auction fundraiser the day before. The donations were meant for Frank and Traci Smith, who face mounting medical expenses following a car accident in which a drunken driver slammed into their vehicle, killing their two sons, 6-year-old C.J. and 11-year-old Nolan.
“I can’t begin to explain the mixed emotions of anger, sympathy and sadness I feel right now,” said Jennifer Parks, managing partner of the Mesa location of Pizza Fusion and a cousin of Traci Smith. “Frank and Traci’s spirits were lifted high by the outcry of support at our grand opening Saturday, only to have it taken away from them later that night. It’s heartbreaking. We’re asking the community to show their support, once again, in recouping this money as we aim to re-raise the $8,000 for supporting the Smiths’ medical expenses.”
Sgt. Ed Wessing, a spokesman for the Mesa police department, said the two burglars entered the restaurant at midnight and once again at 2:35 a.m. through gaping holes in the drywall cut from a vacant business next door to Pizza Fusion. Video surveillance showed the robbers break into Parks’ office and leave with the money.
“We want someone to just have a heart and come forward if they know something,” Wessing told the Arizona Republic.
Police found a glove left at the scene, he said, which investigators will check for traces of DNA.
Since the incident, Parks said, people have come forward to contribute to replacing the stolen money. On Monday two people donated $3,000 each and two others donated $1,000 each, Parks told the Republic.
Pizza Fusion has partnered with Wells Fargo to set up a fund for donating to the Smiths. Frank Smith must undergo eye surgery to save his vision, and Traci Smith has a broken pelvis. To make a donation, customers may pay with a credit or debit card at www.pizzafusion.com  or write a check to the Frank and Traci Smith Family Fund and drop it off at area Wells Fargo bank branches.
“Our hearts go out to the Smith family and their tragic loss,” said Vaughan Lazar, president and co-founder of Pizza Fusion. “It’s difficult to comprehend how someone could be so heartless during a time of need like this. All the Pizza Fusion restaurants are pulling together in a national effort to support our Mesa location in recovering the money lost for this worthy cause. Our goal is to see if we can double what was taken. This is the best way to show people good will can’t be stolen.”
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Pizza Fusion owns or franchises some 20 restaurants in eight states and plans to open more than a dozen units this year.