VERNON - Kris Zacharuk is pushing her son into the arrivals gate of the Kelowna Airport in a wheelchair when her phone rings. It’s been tough lately to keep the phone bills covered, but she has to in case the doctors call about Christopher’s kidney transplant.
It’s her 17-year-old daughter calling. The house Zacharuk shares with her three children, her brother and a roommate has been broken into. The girls are home alone. They are panicking. They need their mom.
Instead of falling apart, Zacharuk talks her daughter down, tells her to call 911, and stays on the phone with her for most of the drive back to Vernon. She arrives about the same time as police and the first thing she does is hug her girls.
“It was just one more thing they didn’t need to have happen to them,” Zacharuk says.
She learns the girls were upstairs when someone broke open the side door of the Mission Hill home and gained entry. One was playing video games, the other listening to music on her iPod. They didn’t even realize someone had broken in until Zacharuk’s roommate’s daughter, who is 12, got home from a babysitting job and saw they’d been robbed.
Zacharuk believes the perpetrators tried to go upstairs, but got scared off when the family dog barked and her daughter called to him. With no cars in the driveway and the lights at the front of the house turned off, it would have looked like no one was home.
“The thought of what could have happened still keeps me awake at night,” Zacharuk says a week after the break-in. “We’re still having trouble sleeping, all of us.”
It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Zacharuk, who asked not to be photographed due to work and safety-related reasons, is on leave to be with her son, who’s waiting for a kidney transplant. Her ex-husband died last summer and there is no more child support.
“I’m struggling to make payments on everything, living on half my wage, and raising three teenagers,” Zacharuk says. “We couldn’t afford to lose any of it.”
The family is still discovering things that are missing from the home. What they noticed first was a T.V., a playstation, one of the girls’ jewellery boxes, and a laptop containing medical records, family pictures, and Christopher’s Make A Wish Trip photos from Florida.
The biggest thing they lost was their sense of security, Zacharuk says. They’ve washed all their clothes and bleached the home trying to purge the feeling of being intruded upon.
“It’s this sense of violation of someone going through a closet, going through a little girl’s room and taking her jewellery box,” Zacharuk says, adding all of them are on edge whenever the dog barks or a strange vehicle parks down the street.
The day after the break-in, Zacharuk got a Facebook message from someone saying ‘they were sorry they’d bought this stuff’ and had left it in a garbage bag down the street. The person’s profile appeared to have been deleted. Zacharuk says the directions to the garbage bag were from her home, and she suspects whoever wrote the message was the same person who committed the robbery.
“The message was apologetic, I think they may have felt guilty,” she says.
Before opening the garbage bag, Zacharuk contacted police, who were able to get fingerprints off the returned items. Not everything was returned, and Zacharuk is asking the perpetrator to leave the rest at their driveway, ‘no questions asked'.
Zacharuk is actively involved in Girl Guides and the volunteer group Mamas for Mamas. She tries to support others whenever she can, and says it’s been hard to ask for help. At the suggestion of others, she launched a Go Fund Me page to help with the financial burden of the break-in and says the community has been incredible. Best Buy offered to give her a new laptop, and many have been donating to the Go Fund Me page. It was a simple gift of food — berries and a frozen turkey — along with a message of positivity, however, that truly put her back on track.
“I told her thank-you, I’ll pay you back. She said ‘no, just pay it forward,’” Zacharuk says.
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