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DES MOINES, Iowa — Girl Scouts Troop 709 in Carlisle has already been impactful in a short time on the lives of Marah Pearce, Madison Williams, and Abby Hugen.

“A whole bunch of my friends are from Girl Scouts and that’s how I met them,” said Abby who is 9 years old.

Marah Pearce, 10, says they’ve learned life lessons at an early age, “You should always be kind to other people.”

On Saturday the three girls, two parents and troop leader Peggy Hugen ran a cookie-selling booth in front of the Hy-Vee on Army Post Road in Des Moines. Hugen said, “It’s not easy to put yourself out there in front of people and get rejected.”

Police reports say just before 11 a.m. a teenager was pretending to be a customer in line. “We were helping another customer and then he was there and when the other customer left he just snatched and ran,” Marah said. Madison added, “This guy came up and acted like he was going to buy cookies. Then he just stole the donation box and ran off.”

The donation box contained $200 from people contributing tips or other donations, not necessarily cookie purchases. Abby said, “It made me disappointed that people would do that, but also made me wonder why he did it.”

The girls were shaken, describing the situation as “heartbreaking.” “I kind of wanted to turn into mamma bear,” Hugen said.

The girls had hoped to use the money to help others. “We think we were going to give it to some people who have to go in and out of cars to do covid tests,” Abby said.

Surveillance cameras are visible in the area where the theft occurred but the suspect took off behind the Target next door and towards nearby apartments. Hugen said, “They learned in their business there is loss. There are bad things that happen, and you have to roll with it.”

After seeing their resilience Hy-Vee stepped in and is donating $200 to the troop. Hugen said, “His bad action was turned into a positive light.” Marah added, “The majority of people are good people, and one bad thing that happened can’t just affect my whole place in Girl Scouts.”

Police are searching for the teenager seen on Saturday wearing a red hoody, black mask and a camo green backpack. As for Troop 709, the girls will be back at the Southridge Hy-Vee this Friday evening from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. selling cookies and raising money to help others in the community.