by Emma Reid
THEY didn't just steal a tin full of money - they stole the lifeblood of the country.
The callous action of stealing a Royal Flying Doctor Service charity tin from the counter of Tender Sprouted Meats has hit a nerve with owners Rob Cook and Shane Simpson.
It wasn't just a collection tin to Mr Cook: it was personal and he feels gutted.
The third-generation cattleman knows too well what the air service means to those who live on the land.
Mr Cook's life was turned upside down in a 2008 helicopter crash in the Northern Territory that left him paralysed.
If it was not for the Royal Flying Doctors he wouldn't be here today.
But it's not only his life which was saved by the RFDS: his mother used the service when she was in labour, his father after he was kicked by a horse and his niece after she was bitten by a snake.
The collection tin was just a small way he helped to give back.
"I was gutted to discover some little weasels can do that all for a six-pack of beer or cigarettes."
Butcher shop manager Shane Simpson said they had spoken with police who told them the tin was found ripped open, but no money was left behind.
"We believe the tin was stolen on Friday and the police traced the identification code back to us and notified us on Saturday," Mr Simpson said.
"It's really disheartening. My business partner wouldn't be here without the Royal Flying Doctors."
They are pleading for anyone with information to come forward or the culprit to return the money.
"If they come forward we will turn a blind eye and not take it any further," Mr Cook said.
The RFDS in Bundaberg helps close to 2000 patients a year.
Service co-ordinator Jo Faulkner said it was a shame someone had stolen the money.
"We rely heavily on the donation raised in the community," she said.
"In Queensland alone the RFDS needs to raise $11m just this year to keep the planes in the air."