Brendon Bradley thought he wanted to play the trumpet, but at Back to School Music Night at West Elementary School two years ago, he changed his mind.

And then the cello changed his life.

“He loves music and always has, and he’s been getting better and better at it, practicing every day,” said his mother, Michele Williams, whose 11-year-old son, now a sixth-grader at West Middle School, has a high-functioning form of autism. “The cello has been a way for him to express himself. He feels at home behind it.”

Last Christmas, Brendon’s father, a Navy and National Guard veteran, bought him his own cello so he’d have an instrument to practice on at home, and “have something to grow with,” Williams said.

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Monday morning, Brendon discovered that prized possession had been stolen from the family vehicle.

“He went outside in the morning to get his coat, which he leaves in the car all the time, and came running back in saying, ‘Mom, did you bring my cello back in?’ ” said Williams, who filed a police report Tuesday but was told the odds of recovery are slim.

The stolen cello is still being paid off, and the family doesn’t have the money to buy a new instrument, said Williams, who works as a sales manager at Hotel Elegante.

By midday Wednesday, a GoFundMe page she created had raised more than $400 toward a $2,000 goal.

“Honestly, I’m just kind of hoping and trying for enough to get a new cello, but if enough money is raised to help pay off the one that was stolen, that would be awesome,” she said.

Mount Carmel Veterans Service Center, a Colorado Springs nonprofit providing a range of services, support and resources for veterans, members of the military and their families, also is working to get the word out, about the theft and ways the community can help.

“This special young man was the victim of a crime that basically took away something from him that was therapeutic in his situation. It’s important to get that back in his hands — especially in the season of giving,” said Mount Carmel COO and retired Army Col. Bob McLaughlin.

In addition to donations to the GoFundMe page, “we’re also looking for community partners that may have an instrument that they can donate to him,” he added. “In my experience this is a very giving community and when people see someone being a victim, something hurting their well-being, we try every avenue we can to help them out.”

Since the theft, Williams said Brendon has struggled with loss and sadness, as well as confusion.

“He’s a smart kid. He keeps asking, ‘Why would someone take my cello? Do they know how to play it?’ ” Williams said. “I told him, ‘No, it’s probably just someone having a hard time and they need money,’ and he’s just dumbfounded why someone would steal it if they didn’t even know how to play.”

UPDATE:

Michele Williams' ended her "Help Replace Brendon's Cello" Go Fund Me campaign late Thursday afternoon, after donations reached $2,387. "We are just overwhelmed by the amount of support shown to us," Williams wrote in a message on the page. "Because of the generosity of this community, Brendon will be able to have his cello replaced. I will be shutting down the page as we have surpassed our goal.Thank you again!"

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Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.

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