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Mesa Marin Raceway
Source — ISAAC CHILDRES, Californian staff writer
Date Posted — August 10, 2001
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Four-year-old Halwais Criddle went straight for the Elmo doll as she explored boxes of donated toys.

Last month, Halwais' toys, along with the rest of her family's possessions, were destroyed in an act of vandalism at the family's southwest Bakersfield home that is being investigated as a hate crime by Bakersfield Police.

But Halwais had a look of delight on her face last week as she rummaged through four boxes of toys donated by Mesa Marin Raceway.

The donation, given to the family Wednesday at City Hall, is just one of the more than 50 offers from residents and businesses across Kern County to help the family get back on their feet, said Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall, whose office is involved in the effort.

"There are no words for (the support)," said Halwais' mother, Dominique Criddle. "It's just continuous love."

The doll seemed to shed some welcome light into Halwais' life, said Larry Collins, the general manager of Mesa Marin Raceway, who included the Criddles in the raceway's annual "Christmas in July" event July 28.

"When someone's in need, the community rallies behind them," Collins said.

Collins also gave the family gift cards donated from local businesses and a portion of the cans they raised for the Golden Empire Gleaners.

"I have always know Bakersfield to be a caring, giving community," Hall said. "They haven't let me down."

Larry and Dominique Criddle and their two children, Halwais and Lawrence, 18 months, came home July 16 from a vacation to find their home defaced by swastikas and slurs.

"It was like the house burned down," Dominique Criddle said, except it was even more disturbing. The Criddles still cannot figure out why someone would do such a thing to them.

"You just don't think something this tragic will happen to you," Larry Criddle said.

Police declined to comment on details of their investigation because it is still ongoing, Police Detective Mary DeGeare said.

"The detective has been working diligently on the case," she said.

The Criddles said they have received numerous phone calls and visits from people offering material, financial, emotional and spiritual help over the past two weeks.

The Criddles have received such an outpouring of support, Hall said he has had to use one of his ambulance company's storage facilities to house all the gifts because the Criddles do not have a large-enough home yet. They are living with Dominique Criddle's mother in the same neighborhood.

"When certain things like this happen, the community really comes together," Larry Criddle said.

Dianna Blair decided to help the Criddles by creating quilts.

"Quilts just have a way of making people feel comfortable and secure," Blair said.

She called upon her quilting friends both locally and on the Internet to help in the effort and about 30 people responded from across the country to give her enough money and supplies to make five or six quilts for the family.

The Criddles said they will hold a thank-you picnic on Aug. 19 for all the people who have helped them bounce back from the destruction of their home.

But for now, the family is still working to rebuild, Dominique Criddle said.

"Our life is coming back one day at a time, one step at a time, one phone call at a time," she said.####

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Article posted by staff on August 10, 2001.