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Grinch steals precious gift

For Reda McGilchrist, the sturdy cane crafted from the root of an African banyan tree was like an extension of herself.

It not only provided needed stability from the dizzy spells she suffers due to Parkinson's disease, but it had sentimental value.

The cane had been given to her by a friend in Ontario about 30 years ago, when the two were part of a group performing historical re-enactments of the War of 1812.

It had been in her friend's family for decades, starting with his great-great grandparents, who were missionaries in Africa. A tribe member had given it to them when they left to return to Canada.

The cane was hand-crafted in a medium-toned wood and was oiled to a silky finish. A knot from the tree served as the rounded knob to hold onto, and the base retained the natural curve of the root.

Reda borrowed the cane for the re-enactments, but her friend let her keep it because she was having problems with her knees.

Twelve years ago, Reda had both knees replaced, but she needed the cane again when her Parkinson's set in.

It had gone everywhere with her for the last eight years. Even though some cracks had set in, it was strong, secure and dependable. Many people remarked on it.

"I got comments a lot on the uniqueness of it – how nice looking it is and how unusual."

On Dec. 6, somebody stole Reda's cane. She had been with a friend shopping at the Salvation Army thrift store on Gladys Avenue.

As always when she was shopping, Reda placed the cane in a cart. She could stand without it for short periods, such as when she needed two hands to look through the racks of items.

She returned to the cart about 30 minutes later. Her coat was still there, but the cane was gone.

She is now using an ordinary black metal cane, but she misses her old one and has faith that it will be returned.

"I means so much to me. It's always been a part of me," she said.

Reda became the victim of a second theft less than two weeks later. She decorates the lobby of her apartment building on Robertson Avenue every Christmas, using items that she and other tenants have purchased.

On Dec. 19, she had set out the box of decorations in the lobby, as well as a real tree that had been donated by a former tenant. The plan was to adorn the tree that evening and decorate the lobby the following day.

But a thief stole everything before the work could begin.

Undeterred, Reda purchased several garlands, ornaments and strings of beads from the Mennonite Central Committee thrift store a few days later.

She spent hours wiring balls and bows to garland and then using sewing machine needles to pin the creations to the walls of the lobby. Two boys who live in the building helped her put everything in place.

"I am a very stubborn woman and I was not going to let anyone spoil the season for any of us," Reda said.

Anyone with information about her missing cane is asked to call the Abbotsford Police Department at 604-859-5225 or Reda at 604-859-2308. The cane can also be returned to the Salvation Army thrift store.

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