Heritage Train & Hobby

Heritage Train & Hobby
36840 Detroit Rd.
Avon, Ohio 44011

A full service Train / Toy / & Hobby shop Hours, Tuesday - Saturday, 11am to 8pm,


NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 1-6-02, By Cindy Leise

[Heritage Train & Hobby helps Santa]

``A Grinch stole Christmas from 6-year-old Collin Souter and his 9-year-old sister Marissa.

But police officers in Lorain County and two local stores helped give the holiday back to the children, who live in Norwalk.

The children's father, Steve Souter, said he couldn't believe his eyes when he went to a storage unit on Christmas Eve and discovered his family's gifts had been stolen.

"My heart dropped. I was sick to my stomach. It almost felt like death."

It was 11:30 p.m., and Souter wondered how he would be able to replace the presents.

To make things worse, his son had been promised a Game Boy Advance and games after he had sent a letter to Santa.

Souter drove home, reported the crime and agonized over the problem with his wife, Cindy.

In the meantime, the children awoke and put out cookies and milk for Santa.

They said they were waiting for Santa Claus. They saw the tension and knew something was up.

After coaxing the children back to bed, Souter said he jumped in his car and drove to Lorain County. One department store had just closed, and the manager said he could not help.

Souter bought some stuffed animals at an all-night gas station and continued east. He came upon a police officer and explained his dilemma.

From left, Steve Souter of Norwalk, Avon police Patrolman Kevin Collins and Scott Hetzel, owner of Heritage Train & Hobby in Avon, hold a limited-edition Harry Potter electric train set at Hetzel's store. The train set was included in the gifts purchased for Souter's children after their presents were stolen. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

The news spread among police and emergency dispatchers in the area.

At about 2:30 a.m., Souter said North Ridgeville police officer James Larkin called him on his cell phone and said, We're going to try to help you.

Larkin enlisted the help of Avon police officer Kevin Collins, who was also working early Christmas morning.

The two officers began calling store managers in hopes of finding someone who would open.

Scott Hetzel ... [who has a store in Old Avon Village] said he and his wife Rosale didn't hesitate when they were called at about 4 a.m.

They drove to Avon to open their store called Heritage Train & Hobby, near the Avon Police Department.

Souter bought about $200 worth of toys, including a Harry Potter train set, a model rocket, and science kits involving electricity and solar power. The Hetzels also gave Souter a loom for weaving and a paint-by-numbers kit ...

Collins said he phoned his wife, who was sleeping, and they decided to give Souter some of the gifts they had purchased for their youngest daughter, who is 2. The pile of gifts grew with a Barbie doll, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory video and a musical crystal snow globe ...

Dispatcher Dawn Scott from Avon Lake police donated a Mickey Mouse globe, and Larkin's father found a book of fairy tales.

Souter said he wanted to reimburse the police officers and dispatcher, but nobody would take any money.

He rushed home, and he and his wife began wrapping the new pile of gifts. His children woke up a short time later, oblivious to their parents all-nighter.

They had a good Christmas, Souter said. "It was the innocence that I wanted to preserve."

Since Christmas, Souter has been racking his brain for a way to thank the officers and store personnel.

"I didn't think people were that kind." ...

Collins said Christmas morning was extra special for his family as well. He and his wife have two boys ages 10 and 8 and a 2-year-old daughter.

"We were on a high. We felt so good. We didn't put our lives on the line, but we pulled something off anyway." ...''

Contact Cindy Leise at cleise@chronicletelegram.com

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