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WASHINGTON — A woman buying gifts for a wounded soldier to take home to his children was robbed at a suburban Maryland mall on Monday night.

Cindy McGrew, who founded the charity Operation Second Chance, said the robber took about $650 in presents, including an Xbox 360 and a PlayStation Portable. As she loaded the items into her truck, an unknown man pushed her aside, grabbed her bags and fled, she said.

McGrew said she wasn’t hurt, but was “devastated” at the time that the soldier wouldn’t get his gifts.

The organization, founded in 2004, provides financial and emotional assistance to patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Monday’s shopping trip was one of many programs run by the group, which also buys airline tickets and helps renovate homes of the wounded troops.

Police are still investigating the robbery, but McGrew did get good news about the gifts. Nearly $10,000 has been donated to Second Chance since the mugging, most from people who wanted to make sure the anonymous soldier still got his presents.

“It has been amazing,” she said. “We’ve heard from hundreds of people since the story got out. The important thing his he’ll be able to get his items.”

McGrew has also received numerous offers from military personnel — including a number of the servicemembers recovering at Walter Reed — who have offered to escort her whenever she goes shopping for expensive items.

“I feel comfortable, but I’ll probably take a few of them up on it,” she said.

McGrew said police told her that several security cameras around the Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg recorded the crime, and they are pursuing several leads.

Meanwhile, she said she has spent the last two days thanking new donors and returning calls from friends at Walter Reed.

“But I’ve told all of them I don’t want them to worry about me,” she said. “I’m a tough person. I ride a motorcycle. This isn’t going to slow me down.”

For more information on McGrew’s organization, visit

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