THREE youngesters were left heartbroken after thieves stole money they had raised for charity.

For the past four years Lily Ayling, nine, her brother Alfie, seven, and friend Iris Penfold, nine, have been painting stones and raising money for Lyme Regis RNLI.

They paint the stones and leave them outside with an ‘honesty’ box and since 2008 their artwork has netted nearly £300.

But this year 16 out of 18 stones and the money box, outside The Bakehouse in Sherborne Lane were stolen.

Iris’ mum Jackie said they were very disappointed and hoped to shame the thief into giving everything back – so far without success.

She said: “It was a huge shame. The children started doing this in 2008. They have all been coming on holiday to Lyme Regis as a group since they were two.

“We always come in Lifeboat Week and they thought they’d raise the money for the RNLI. They all like doing arty crafty things.”

They started off with tiny amounts – taking £17.31 in 2008, £24.22 in 2009 but last year the figure rocketed to £238.16.

Mrs Penfold said: “It was so much because they did it over a three-week period and also down at the beach hut. They did loads and loads down there and other people were getting involved saying: ‘Can we paint them as well?’.

“The children said: ‘Yes but only if you give a donation’ – encouraged by their dad Russell who had by that time got involved.” They normally put the stones and box outside wherever they are staying, always around the Coombe Street and Sherborne Lane area.

Mrs Penfold added: “People take a stone and put money in the box, the amount varies and they have also had orders. This year we left it as we have always done and we came back and the stones and the money had gone.

“We don’t know how much was in it but we had taken the notes and pound coins out.

“We feel quite disappointed about it to say the least. Hence we have put a note up saying please put all donations through the letter box and a sign up to make people feel guilty.

“Whoever it was it hasn’t worked as it hasn’t come back –` not that I really expected it to.

“We were hugely surprised because the reaction to this has always been ‘oh how lovely’ we have never had anything but good will. We were very surprised because we have always felt safe and trusting here.”