Nolan Turner, 12, was out selling water bottles and raising money Thursday evening to bring his wheelchair basketball team to his school for an event, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported.
"Everybody at school has been asking me what it's like to [play basketball] in a wheelchair, and I want to show them," said the fifth-grader, who was born with spina bifida.
Turner had already raised about $250 of the $1,000 needed to bring the experience of playing wheelchair basketball to his schoolmates when the thief approached him.
The boy told police a man he didn't recognize grabbed his money bucket about 6:30 p.m. and walked away, said Cary police Capt. Mike Williams. Turner yelled and screamed at the man, but was unable to catch up with him.
Ashley Thomas, founder of Bridge II Sports, the company that would be putting on the event at Turner's school, said she was shocked and very concerned about Turner.
"I think he's very brave," she said.
Thomas said the money Turner was raising would go toward paying staff to show students how to operate the wheelchairs, transporting the equipment and cover the required insurance.
"We'll put cones down and let them dribble up and down the court, then probably play a game of sharks and minnows," Thomas said.
Police were still searching for the thief, The News & Observer reported Saturday.
In the meantime, Turner's father set up a fundraising Web site for anyone who would like to donate.