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Praise showers boys who found wallet

The sheriff points to the honesty of the boys who turned in $5 and change. They go to dinner in a limo.

photo
[Times photo: Lance A. Rothstein]
Marco Arias, 9, left, and Miguel Natal, 7, who found a wallet containing money but no identification last month, approach a limousine and a crowd gathered in their honor Friday in Lacoochee. Their families were treated to dinner at a steakhouse.

By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 10, 2002


LACOOCHEE -- Gleaming white stretch limousines usually don't visit this neighborhood, where children play among a patchwork of public housing units.

The county sheriff doesn't usually show up to hand out awards. Photographers don't usually come to snap pictures.

But all of that happened Friday, thanks to two boys who made a choice. The right choice.

Marco Arias, 9, and Miguel Natal, 7, were playing outside early last month when they found a wallet on the ground with $5 and change inside. It contained no identification.

Only two blocks from their neighborhood on Blanchette Road sits a convenience store where the boys easily could have spent the cash. Instead, they turned it in.

Their honesty struck a nerve with Pasco sheriff's Deputy Vivian Davenport.

"It's not the amount (of money)," Davenport said. "It's the fact they did the right thing. That's just so rare these days."

Davenport thought the boys deserved recognition. She made a few calls.

Before long, Outback Steakhouse agreed to give each boy's family a $45 gift certificate. William Jennings, of Dynasty Limousines in St. Petersburg, offered to personally drive the two families to dinner in a limo.

Each boy also received a $10 gift certificate to Wal-Mart and $5 in cash.

Pasco Sheriff Bob White showed up Friday to personally thank the boys.

"It's not every day you find two young men who would turn in money that didn't have an identification card attached to it," White said.

"Five dollars to them might as well be $500. It's because of the values they were taught that they did what they did. I think that's pretty impressive."

Tears welled up in Johanna Aponte's eyes as she listened to White praise her son.

"It makes me feel good," she said. "It means I'm doing a good job."

Marco, with his mop of dark hair and contagious smile, and Miguel, with his big eyes peering from under a navy ball cap, spoke only long enough to mention the "lots of fun" they planned to have on their upcoming dinner trip.

But the grownups were more willing to talk.

They knew what the boys had done meant more than any steak dinner, any handshake from a sheriff, any ride in a gleaming white limousine.

"They know the difference between right and wrong," said Isa Blanford, community planner for Promoting Safe and Stable Families, an arm of the housing authority.

"It shows the other kids in the community that it's good to do the right thing. They led by example."

-- Brady Dennis covers Zephyrhills news and police news in east Pasco. To reach him, call (352) 521-5757, ext. 23, or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6108, then 23. His e-mail address is dennis@sptimes.com.

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