THE theft of an autistic boy’s invaluable iPad has prompted an overwhelming community response, with one stranger even offering to replace the device.
The boy’s mother was reduced to tears at the offer that she said showed the few horrible people in the world were outnumbered by a “beautiful, kind-hearted” majority.
Zac was in Big W on Friday, when an unknown woman stole his iPad - referred to as his security blanket - at the self-serve checkout.
Kim Hardy, of Guildford, found out about the theft this weekend and said he understood all too well what the family would be going through.
Mr Hardy has a 6-year-old autistic boy who relies on an iPad to keep calm - so has offered to donate his second iPad, which has several autism apps on it.
He made the announcement on 3BO on Monday and told the Bendigo Advertiser that if he didn't offer his iPad, "there'd be hundreds of people lining up to help".
"I felt the same as everyone else when I found out what happened - things are tough in life without these unnecessary burdens," he said.
"Those with autism get very attached to things and an iPad is such a helpful thing so I can only imagine how much he is struggling without it.
"But if this creates more awareness about autism, then we can take one positive out of the incident."
Zac's family was left shaken by the theft, but said it was heartwarming to have so much support from the community.
"This incident has shown there's some horrible people in the world, but it's also proved that there are beautiful, kindhearted people out there too," Zac's mum, who did not want to be named, said.
"I started crying when I found out - it's overwhelming, really.
"And while I want to say thank you so much for the offer, Zac has been offered an iPad from a friend and we are still hoping his original iPad will be returned."
Autism advocate Beck Kelly was "absolutely touched" by the generosity of the community.
"Because the community helped us so much to get him the iPad and helped raise the funds, I feel like they have been let down too. But we really are part of the most generous community."
Police are investigating.