BACKPACK STOLEN: Blaine student with autism speaks out - KMSP-TV

BACKPACK STOLEN: Blaine student with autism speaks out

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BLAINE, Minn. (KMSP) -

A Blaine High School student with special needs is speaking out after someone stole her backpack, which was full of necessities she used every day as tools to cope with autism.

The things inside Julia Hendrickson's backpack were items she had worked hard to earn, and they also carry sentimental value.

"I started crying," Hendrickson told FOX 9 News.

The 17-year-old junior was crushed when she got to school on Tuesday and realized a thief had taken her backpack and everything inside.

"I forgot to lock it thinking nobody was going to take it," she recalled.

The backpack contained at least $200 in goods -- including an iPod, earphones, a Walkman, her school books and two jackets.

One of those jackets was an award, one of many Hendrickson has received for her hard work in the Pageant of Hope, which showcases the talents of girls with special needs and disabilities. Hendrickson has received several crowns, sashes and jackets from the organization, but the pink jacket that symbolized what she'd accomplished over the last four years is now gone.

"I stood up in front of 2,000 some people," Hendrickson said. "For me, that's one of the greatest accomplishments and that's why that jacket meant so much."

In fact, she loved that jacket so much she sometimes slept in it.

"I realize the chances of getting it back are not going to be that great," she admitted.

The stolen iPod was also more than just an mp3 player for Hendrickson because it's a tool she used to make living with autism a little easier.

"I go into sensory overload and I can't deal with it," she explained. "In order to maintain my autism under a controllable level, I need those tools."

Hendrickson's mother, Catherine, vented her frustrations by penning a public letter to the crook on Facebook. Since then, it's been shared nearly 2,500 times.

"So many times, children with special needs -- when they're in school, they're invisible," Catherine Hendrickson told FOX 9.

While her open letter certainly got a lot of exposure online, Catherine Hendrickson had one more message to the thief.

"I hope that your conscience guides you to either turn these things in or confess -- and remember, we make the decisions that we make for the rest of our lives," she warned.

The family said they are grateful many anonymous donors have already offered to replace the jacket and iPod. Now, they say they're trying to learn a lesson from the incident. In fact, Julia Hendrickson said she isn't even mad at the thief. Instead, she's focusing more on personal responsibility and remembering to lock up her things in the future.

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