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Fallbrook residents replace high school student's stolen laptop


Last updated 7/10/2021 at 8:35am

On Tuesday, June 29, John Barous and his daughter, Helena Barous, returned to their car after a shopping trip to find that her new laptop had been stolen.

In 2003, John Barous and his wife Lucia Barous traveled to Fallbrook and decided that someday, they would move here and start a family. Lucia got pregnant with their daughter Helena, but Lucia suffered a fatal brain aneurysm and Helena was born premature.

“Fallbrook is where we wanted to come and raise our family together,” said John. “So, my daughter Helena and I moved here 11 years ago.”

A few years ago, John was diagnosed with lymphoma, along with two rare diseases, Castleman's disease and Pemphigus disease. These illnesses have caused him to be unable to work, leading to a lack of income. He was also extremely vulnerable at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic because of his illnesses; his daughter had to live with her aunt until they were sure that Barous would not contract COVID-19.

On June 29, John and Helena took a father-daughter shopping trip to the Fallbrook Rite Aid to pick up a few prescriptions and get ice cream. They parked in the Handicap parking spot right in front of the store entrance, and the laptop was left in the front seat of the car. When they returned, the laptop had been stolen.

“Helena’s laptop being stolen came at the worst possible time,” said John. “I bought it for her as a gift for graduating from middle school, and it took me a year to pay it off. She’s been going through a hard time and someone stealing her laptop was an enormous blow.”

John decided to post about his situation on the Facebook group “Friends of Fallbrook” in hopes that the thief would come forward and return the laptop.

“Initially, I had hoped that someone would return the stolen laptop,” he said. “Having a laptop in high school is essential these days, and I wanted her to be able to get her laptop back. But then, Chandra Goldner stepped up and offered to help buy a new one.”

Once Goldner, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, offered her help, others began stepping up and offering to pitch in.

“The situation reminded me of my high school years. They weren't exactly easy, so when I saw what she was going through, and how her dad tried to help, just to have his effort stolen, I felt the urge to help in some way,” said Goldner.

After one day, Goldner had received funds from 12 other people to help cover the cost of the laptop. Goldner received $400 from the other donations, and she offered to cover the remaining cost of the laptop, $800.

“I can't imagine the struggles his daughter went through school-wise with this pandemic going on,” said Goldner. “To see her dad's effort to assist her in getting through the theft just kinda hit me in a way that made me think ‘I want and I am able to help them’.”

The Barous family is extremely grateful for the generosity they’ve received from the community, especially from Goldner.

“Chandra’s compassionate heart inspired others to donate,” said John. “We have such a good community here. My daughter is very shy, receiving this gift is a blessing. I’m hoping that in the future, she will pay it back to someone.”

Goldner hopes that the act of kindness will start a ripple effect within the Fallbrook community.

“With all that's been going on, I hope the citizens of Fallbrook realize how a small act of kindness can have a further impact than we'll ever know,” she said.

Helena Barous said that she is very thankful for the number of people that helped her to get a replacement laptop.

“Having all of those people donate means a lot to me,” she said. “I’ve been working very hard in school and I appreciate everyone who was able to donate and help me get a new laptop.”


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