An Arizona mom is devastated after her 6-year-old's book exchange project disappeared from her front yard.
"At first, I was shaking and crying," Heather Wolcott of Phoenix, Arizona, told ABC News today. "She put so much into this. It's such a mess, but the outpouring of love and support from our community is unreal. They want to build her a new one, donate books ... I feel that something really good will come out of this."
At the end of May, Wolcott said her daughter Anna was assigned a community service project in kindergarten class and chose to start a "Little Free Library" -- a book-sharing program where people voluntarily donate, borrow and return books.
Anna and her mom purchased a "Little Free Library" for $350 on the company's website. Anna painted the library herself with a blue sky, green grass, hummingbirds and butterflies, Wolcott said.
The box, which Anna dedicated to her teacher, contained donated books, bookmarks and a guestbook. It was screwed to a table located in the front yard. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for Anna's library took place on June 25.
"[Anna] would say, 'Mommy, mommy, there are people at my 'Little Free Library,'" Wolcott recalled. "It had gotten lot of activity in one week."
Wolcott said that on July 1, the family went on vacation out-of-state. The following day, Dee Tully, a neighborhood friend donating books to Anna's library, called with news that the structure was no longer in the yard.
"I showed up at her house and it wasn't there," Tully told ABC News. "I actually FaceTimed [Wolcott] and said, 'Can you tell me where in your yard, I can't find it?' She was devastated. You could see the tire marks [where the library sat]. My reaction was complete shock and sadness. Maybe they thought they saw the sign that said, 'Free,' and didn't continue reading, but once you open it up you see a log-in journal. It was clearly designated as a free library. Hopefully it's a huge misunderstanding and it comes back. Hopefully they realize their mistake."
Wolcott said she filed a police report, but agreed that the ordeal could have also been a mix up.
"The more I think about it, I personally have this gut feeling that someone thought it was a free piece of furniture to take," she said. "It was movable and it wasn't in the ground yet, but I'm hoping that the person that took it has the resources to realize that it was publicized as being missing. If it was malicious, I'm hoping their conscience eats away at them."
On July 2, Wolcott took to Facebook to report the alleged theft.
"I have never felt so heartbroken and so enraged," she wrote, in part. "My sweet 6 yr old daughter has never worked so hard on anything in her life, and spent hours in our garage painting it when it was 117 degrees outside. She has been enthusiastic about her LFL since the moment it became her community service project in April, and never gave up on it. We are going to file a police report and pray really hard that someone returns it. I don't care about the books, but her guestbook was in there with all of the wonderful support and comments from our friends. If anyone sees or hears anything, please let me know. (I haven't had the heart to tell her this yet...)"
An officer of the public affairs bureau at the Phoenix Police Department confirmed to ABC News that Wolcott filed a report and said they're hoping local media coverage helps track down the library.
Wolcott and Anna are still away on vacation. Wolcott does not plan on telling her daughter about the library until their trip is over. She hopes in that time that the library is returned or replaced, she said.
"I'm moved beyond words by the comments and outreach by the people that are spreading it like wildfire," Wolcott said. "If it comes back, we'll donate the second one and she'll be the one to choose the community [where it goes]. It'll be a win-win."
Wolcott said she and her family are offering a monetary reward to whomever returns Anna's library.