Telltale bits of glass mark the spot where a thief broke into a car Sunday, at the YMCA in Arvada, and stole a purse and part of Traci Otterman’s heart.
Inside the purse was a silver locket and a hand-sized rock, painted red, with a picture of Otterman’s daughter, Simone, attached to it.
“I don’t care about the purse,” Otterman said, tears welling in her eyes. “If there’s anyone out there who has what’s in the purse, the little picture or the rock with a little girl’s picture, it would mean nothing to them, but it means the world to me.”
Otterman told Denver 7 that the rock is a memento of her 2-year old daughter, who died in September.
She said Simone had seemingly won her battle with leukemia, but suddenly developed a breathing problem and passed away.
To help cope with her grief, Traci attached pictures of Simone to several painted rocks.
“They were rocks we found on our walks,” she said. “I put her pictures on them and covered them with Mod Podge, so they can be touched. It just feels like a little weight, like her in our arms.”
Traci said her husband takes one to work each day and Jade (Simone’s sister) takes one to school.
Traci said she kept her rock in her purse.
On Sunday, she went to the Y at West 64th Avenue and Eldridge Street, to work out.
“I try to keep busy,” she said, “so I don’t think about losing Simone.”
She said she doesn’t normally use her Coach purse, but she did over the weekend because she had a nice Christmas Party (for families whose children have cancer) to attend.
She also said she doesn’t normally keep her purse in the car, but she did on Sunday because she had to run to the grocery store afterward.
She hid the purse on the floor and covered it with a shopping bag, but the thief found it.
“My heart sank when I walked out and saw the window had been shattered,” she said.
She called Arvada Police and told them about the rock.
“I was shaking visibly in my voice,” she said. “The officer didn’t know why, until I said my little girl passed away three months ago.”
Traci told Denver 7 that she can’t bear the thought of someone discarding the rock or the locket, which was a gift from a family in Pittsburgh, into the dumpster.
She said the locket was on a long necklace and had a dragonfly design attached on top, with an “S” for Simone engraved on it.
“We’ve met so many kind people,” whose children are also battling cancer, she said.
She said a local grocery chain donated gift cards for distribution to those families. The cards were in her purse.
“It bothers me that the gift cards, which were donated in Simone’s name, were to go to families who need them, not someone who’s smashing out windows and taking them out of cars. That’s the worst part to me.”
Traci said many of those families are trying to help make the holidays a little more bearable for her and her family.
“We weren’t going to put up a Christmas tree this year,” she said, “but several people made Christmas ornaments with pictures of Simone (downloaded from Facebook) and mailed them to us. So, we put them up on a tree. We call it our Little Simone Tree.”
Jade said her favorite ornament is the one showing little feet with nail polish.
Looking at the ornaments, Traci said Simone “lived 26 months and was just amazing. She brought so much joy and happiness to our family.”
Now, Traci is trying to promote awareness of childhood cancer.
“I’d like people to know about childhood cancer and care about childhood cancer,” she said. “They can go to Facebook and look up #Super Simone, that’s her Facebook page. Two years ago, I didn’t know what parents and what kids go through, and now, nearly every friend and everyone I know is someone in the cancer world and that s*cks.”
Anyone who knows the whereabouts of the red rock, silver locket or the black Coach purse is asked to contact Arvada Police.