Triton Central Middle School teacher Lori Diehl finished her “Black Friday” Christmas shopping early Friday morning, then returned to her van to head for home.
The Decatur County resident had made stops at K-Mart, Kohls and Menards in Indianapolis Friday, purchasing presents for her husband Matt and their three young children.
But when Lori returned to her vehicle, she received a shock: every last item she had purchased was gone.
Thieves had broken into the Diehl’s van while Lori shopped at Mendards, taking everything Lori had spent the morning acquiring.
An exasperated Lori notified Menards management of the break-in, then she contacted police who told her there was little they could do.
Finally she called her husband Matt, the extremely popular South Decatur High School Choir Director, who had stayed home with the couple’s children while Lori had shopped.
As Matt heard the news of the break-in, he became more disheartened than perhaps he ever had.
“I lost a lot of faith,” said Matt upon hearing the news their family had been robbed.
Friday morning’s theft was another tough blow in a year that has proven itself difficult for Matt and Lori.
Matt was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and has temporarily taken leave from his job at SDHS in order to undergo treatment. Lori has been on maternity leave after giving birth to their youngest child four months ago, and with two other very young children in the home (age three and a half years and 20-months respectively), money has been tight for the family.
In order to help brighten Matt and Lori’s Christmas, friends and family had purchased gift cards from various retailers. Those donations, coupled with Lori’s careful “Black Friday” shopping plan, were aimed at making the best of a difficult year and providing the best possible Christmas within the Diehl’s limited budget.
Friday morning’s theft changed all of that.
Matt estimated that approximately $500 worth of items were stolen from the Diehl’s van, not including Lori’s breast pump which was valued at about $400. The latter item has been a necessity with a new baby in the home, and the pump was the only piece of stolen merchandise the Diehl’s could scarcely afford to do without.
But just when Matt and Lori felt they had finally had enough in a year that would likely test the faith and patience of nearly anyone, a wealth of kindness sprang forth from some very unlikely places.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Officer investigating the theft at Menards, Lisa Weilhamer, was compassionate and understanding of the Diehl’s plight — so much so that she, herself a mother — gave the Diehl family a breast pump she owned. Officer Weilhamer even delivered the much-needed item to Lori in person and told the family they could keep it as long as was necessary.
“We can’t thank her enough for being willing to do that for perfect strangers, in a crisis situation,” Matt told the Daily News. “It was a huge blessing for us.”
Indianapolis television news stations caught wind of Friday morning’s theft and featured the Diehl family in televised stories throughout the weekend.
One viewer, Indianapolis Colts center Mike McGlynn, immediately took an interest in the story. McGlynn and his wife paid to replace all of the Diehl’s stolen items.
“It was a really unexpected thing,” said Matt. “It was another of those moments that kind of picked up our confidence in humanity.”
But McGlynn wasn’t finished.
Immediately following Indianapolis’ victory over the Buffalo Bills Sunday, the Diehls received a phone call from McGlynn who told Matt and Lori Colts players are thinking about them and praying for them. McGlynn even took time to speak with the Diehl’s oldest son.
“We hoped this win would lift up your spirits,” McGlynn told Matt and Lori Sunday.
And the news keeps getting better.
Matt just finished his 12th chemotherapy treatment. He’ll return to the hospital for tests soon and should know by Christmas whether or not he’ll be well enough to return to South Decatur High School in January, which has been his target date to return to work for some time.
“It’s a long road and there are always setbacks, but that’s definitely been a focal point for us — to get back in January,” Matt said Monday.
With Friday’s unfortunate circumstances having become a sort of blessing in disguise, Matt and Lori now find themselves thankful.
“That was just a really special thing for us,” said Matt. “We haven’t expected anybody to do anything for us.”
Matt mentioned his appreciation for the help received through students and faculty of SDHS as well as many others who’ve been there for the Diehls to “lean on” during tough times.
“It’s been very humbling and just a huge blessing,” said Matt.
With their fortunes slowly turning, the Diehls now hope they can learn from this experience, one day returning the favor.
“We want to be able to give back when we’re able,” said Matt. “This can be a great lesson for our kids.”
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056