Thieves steal cancer patient supplies, wigs from San Mateo bus

A Bay Area nonprofit said thieves had stolen a bus that carries supplies to cancer patients.

The bus has been recovered. But it's damaged, and almost everything inside was stolen.

"This is our mobile resource center.  Here is where we would have kept-all our wigs," said Rina Bello, executive director of the San Mateo-based Bay Area Cancer Connections, as she showed a KTVU crew the inside of the bus.

She said wigs, hats and other items for women battling breast and ovarian cancer were stolen along with the bus. 
"The hardest part about this is recovering from this, not only is the bus out of commission. It's going to be expensive to fix, but replacing all those things for our patients," Bello said.

She said she got the bus back Sunday, about a week after it was stolen during the President's Day holiday weekend.  

"All these racks had the bras on them," said Bello as she pointed to an empty rack.

She said the catalytic converter was also stolen, and the group was forced to cancel an event to serve patients Saturday in Newark.

"Whenever we have to pull back a service, it's painful," said Beth Solomon, a volunteer with Bay Area Cancer Connections.  

The nonprofit used the bus to bring items to patients in places such as San Francisco and all over the Bay Area, and as far south as Salinas to bring comfort. Many of the women are low income. The items and services offered are free. 
"It's brand new and it's a wig," said Shannon Whiley of Alameda as she pulled items out of the "care" tote given to her by the nonprofit. 

She is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and is among the 2600 patients the nonprofit serves each year.

"I feel violated," said Whiley. "It's important to me and others to get these items.  They help in so many ways."  

The bus was stolen while parked behind the offices of Bay Area cancer connections. It was recovered less than two miles away. 

Bello has a message for the thieves: "We just want our stuff back. If they can just give it back to us." 

The nonprofit plans to keep its appointment to be at San Francisco General Hospital Tuesday.   
But it will only be able to provide items to five patients instead of 14.

Police said they're looking at surveillance videos, and waiting for results of fingerprint and DNA collected from the bus.

To donate or to request services, call Bay Area Cancer Connections Monday through Friday during business hours: Bay Area Cancer Connections Helpline: 650-326-6686.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU