Fort Mill Times

After playground theft, Charlotte company gives toys to Lake Wylie daycare with same name

Giving Tree Realty workers donate toys on Wednesday to the Giving Tree Child Development Center in Lake Wylie.
Giving Tree Realty workers donate toys on Wednesday to the Giving Tree Child Development Center in Lake Wylie. courtesy of the York County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page

A Charlotte business gave to a Lake Wylie business, and “the tree was happy.”

On Wednesday, 10 people from Giving Tree Realty in Charlotte filled three cars and SUVs with toys to deliver about 22 miles away at Giving Tree Child Development Center in Lake Wylie to help replace stolen playground equipment.

“It was like Christmas around here,” said Lauri Barnette, founder and director of the daycare. “They squealed with delight.”

In mid-May, two men stole more than $5,000 in toys and playground equipment from the Lake Wylie daycare. The York County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release and several media outlets reported the news.

That’s when the Giving Tree Realty company received a Google alert and went into action.

“One of our brokers mentioned it to me, and it doesn't take much for our organization to get behind a really good project of helping someone in need,” said Bruce Bleiman, broker in charge of Giving Tree Realty.

Giving Tree Realty donates a portion of every real estate transaction to charity and encourages its 43 brokers to get involved in local charities.

“Our firm is built on a foundation of giving back,” Bleiman said, adding they annually collect toys for troops and hold an annual event for local military families.

On Wednesday, the company gave a large play set, toy roller coaster, balls, stuffed animals, dolls and crayons, “and all kinds of stuff,” to the daycare. Bleiman declined to say the dollar amount.

“We’re all about the idea of paying it forward,” he said. “We saw these scoundrels steal this playset from a daycare, and we were up in arms.”

Barnette said the donation came at a great time at the beginning of summer.

“It was very heartwarming to have another company reach out to us,” she said. “It gives us that freedom to put more funds into the summer and academic programs.”

The daycare, which will mark 11 years in Lake Wylie next month, has more than 200 children attending daily, Barnette said.

“The gesture to reach out and excite these children was phenomenal,” she said. “We are very humbled.”

As a gift between the two company owners, Bleiman said they also gave them a copy of “The Giving Tree” book by Shel Silverstein signed by all the brokers.

The theft case remains under investigation, but officials have developed several possible leads thanks to several tips on social media.

Anyone with information about the crime or the identities of the suspects is asked to call CrimeStoppers of York County 877-409-4321, or submit a tip online at