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Priceless memories stolen

As a mother and daughter basked in the sun and splashed in the water, enjoying a rare outing together, a thief was busy stealing family memories.

While Kristen Strauss and her daughter Alissa, 13, were away from their vehicle parked near Wild Waves on June 19, a thief broke in and stole a multitude of possessions including their purses, three credit cards, gift certificates, a digital camera, an iPod, checkbook, make-up, a breast pump, more than $45 in cash — and a video camera with seven video cassettes of special times the family has spent together.

"They took everything," Kristen Strauss said.

The family would like to see their possessions, especially the tapes, returned. The Strauss' are requesting the thief return the items, no questions asked, to St. Vincent de Paul Parish at 30525 8th Ave. S. in Federal Way.

The tapes contain footage of memories that Kristin and Doug Strauss and their seven children, ages nine months to 13 years, have shared. They feature family outings, holidays, birthday parties, dance recitals, choir performances and even a day spent with "American Idol" star Sanjaya Malakar.

The tapes also include footage of a pilgrimage Kristen, Doug and their daughter, Gloria, 11, made to the spiritual city of Lourdes, France, about three years ago. That's when Gloria, who has a form of cancer called neuroblastoma, was given three months to three years to live, Kristen Strauss said.

The family had planned to transfer footage on the tapes to DVDs, so as not to lose any clarity upon repeat viewings. In the rush to get to Wild Waves before a discounted tickets deal expired at noon, Kristen Strauss forgot the tapes were in her purse, she said.

"All those videotapes, you can't replace those," Doug Strauss said.

Priceless possessions

The videotapes represent more than just good times to the Strauss family. The doctors have told the family that Gloria has a limited amount of time left to enjoy life. Each time the family thinks it will have to say goodbye, she rebounds and gets a little better, Kristen Strauss said. However, doctors recently told the family that they may lose Gloria as soon as July.

"If we need a miracle, it's now," Kristen Strauss said.

Dealing with a large family and Gloria's illness as well as the theft has been stressful for the whole family, Kristen Strauss said.

"It throws your whole mindset off," Kristen Strauss said. "Our focus should be on our daughter, our kids," she said.

Instead, that focus is split. Part of it rests on Gloria's well-being, part of it rests on keeping the family safe. The Strauss' did not feel safe in their home and slept at a friend's house the night their van was broken into. Their house keys had been in Kristen's purse.

Since the break-in, they have replaced the locks on their home's doors and the window of their 12-passenger van, which was a gift, Kristen Strauss said.

The family is so intent on recovering their possessions that Doug has taken the matter into his own hands. Shortly following the break-in, the Strauss' were notified by their credit card companies that the thief was attempting to make illegal purchases in Federal Way. One of Kristen's credit cards was used at a Chevron station near Wild Waves the same day it was stolen, she said.

The thief tried to make a purchase there while Doug Strauss was on the phone with an employee of the credit card company, he said. Doug immediately drove to the gas station seeking the thief.

Since the break-in, the thief has also tried to cash in at Costco, Rite Aid and Fred Meyer, all in Federal Way, Doug Strauss said.

Video footage from Fred Meyer showed a woman with long, dark hair, but failed to provide any more clues to the woman's identity, Doug and Kristen Strauss said.

While a police detective was assigned to the case, the family is not sure how long it will be pursued. Doug and Kristen Strauss said they have had to be persistent to get the information they have gathered from the police and local retail stores.

Even though more than a week has passed since the theft, the family continues to pray. They pray that the thief will have a change of heart and return, if nothing else, their video tapes of Gloria and their family.

"We're praying for the people who stole our stuff," Kristen Strauss said. "It's sad that this is what they do," she said.

Contact Jacinda Howard at jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

To report any information in this case call the Federal Way Police Department at (253) 835-6700.

The stolen items may be returned at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, located at 30525 8th Ave. S. in Federal Way. One may contact the church by calling (253) 839-2320.

Learn more about Neuroblastoma cancer:

Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system, which carries messages from the brain throughout the body. The cancer begins in the nerve tissue of the adrenal glands, which produce hormones that control the way the body reacts to stress, among other things, according to www.cancer.gov.

Most who have this type of cancer are diagnosed as children, according to the same site. By the time the cancer is discovered, it has usually spread, according to the Web site.

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