Accidental donation sparks frantic search

Saucedo and Wright, son of local dance studio owner Angell Husted, met at work in Bloomberg in Washington, D.C. “I’d been with that company for seven years and Matt was a newbie,” Saucedo said. “Once our relationship got more serious Matt started sharing his dream of travel with me. Traveling was something I’d always wanted to do but it hadn’t happened for me.”

The idea of quitting a good job and spending $20,000 apiece on a year of travel was daunting. “It was scary,” Saucedo said. “But there are only a few windows in a person’s life when they have the opportunity to take a big risk. So in March I finally said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ In April we bought our one-way tickets.”

In May 2015 the couple took off, headed for Paris. They spent the anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, then went on to Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Amsterdam, Munich, Budapest and Vienna, then camped in Croatia and Slovenia for a couple of months. “Before this I was so bad at geography,” said Saucedo. “I couldn’t have told you where Slovenia was on a map.”

From Slovenia the couple backpacked through Greece and Turkey, then took a plane to visit relatives in United Arab Emirates. After that they began the Southeast Asia portion of their trip by flying to Hong Kong. From there they traveled through Vietnam. “My dad is a Vietnam veteran so it was especially emotional for my family for us to go there,” said Saucedo. “Everyone there was very friendly – there was no hostility toward us.”

Then they went on to Cambodia and spent Christmas in Bangkok. “It was a very tropical Christmas,” Saucedo said. “It wasn’t the slightest bit cold!”

After time in Laos the couple returned to Thailand and became certified in scuba diving. They went on to have more diving and backpacking adventures in Malaysia, Bali and Indonesia.

The couple parted ways briefly so Saucedo could visit her family in Texas while Wright trekked to New Zealand. “Then we met up again on the west coast and did a Pacific coast road trip,” said Saucedo. “It was really important for me to be able to travel in my own country.” After visits to locations like Big Sur and the Grand Canyon, the couple headed to Phoenix and grabbed a flight home. They returned last May – a year after they started.

Saucedo admitted it was difficult not seeing friends and family for a year. “But we’re really lucky because technology is so advanced that we could have a Skype chat, a Google hangout, or use Facetime to communicate with our family,” she said. “When you’re far away those voices can help you feel closer to home.”

The couple had given up their apartment in D.C. before their adventure, so when they returned they were homeless. “Matt’s folks were kind enough to let us store our things in their garage” in Lake Monticello, Saucedo said. Since Wright’s brother let them use his apartment for several weeks while they located a place to sublet, the couple ended up with belongings scattered in three separate locations. Because of this, it took them a couple months to realize something was wrong.

“We realized we didn’t need some of the things we had stored in [Husted’s] garage,” Saucedo said. “So we were trying to pack for our new place and donate stuff at the same time. And a bag to go to D.C. ended up with the bags to go to Good Will. And there went our camera.”

Saucedo thinks they dropped the bag off at Good Will on May 11. “Because we were scrambling around and our stuff was in three different places, I didn’t realize I didn’t have the camera – I just thought it was back at Angell and Harold [Wright]’s house,” Saucedo said. “We figured out at the end of July that it wasn’t there. That’s when I called and they said that it had been sold the day before.”

Saucedo doesn’t know who bought the camera, and neither do the Good Will employees. “They said they could recognize the person’s face, and if she came back in they could speak to her about her previous purchase,” Saucedo said. “They said she wasn’t one of their regulars, but that’s all they knew.”

This isn’t the first time someone has accidentally donated something to Good Will, Saucedo said she was told. “They said a wedding ring and a lovey quilt had been accidentally donated too,” she said. But she said the employees cited privacy laws that prohibited them from trying to contact people who purchased items on July 30.

“I felt really bad for her,” said Julie Brewer, Good Will supervisor, as she recalled Husted’s visit to the store on her son’s and Saucedo’s behalf. “It was just devastating that we couldn’t track the camera down and get the memory card out of it. We tried. I looked in the furniture log to see if we had a record of who bought it, but we don’t really write down merchandise except furniture.”

Brewer said the camera would have been listed as “wares” on the receipt. “We have a ton of wares merchandise,” she said. Brewer said Husted offered to go through the day’s receipts to pinpoint people who bought items costing $19.99, but Good Will couldn’t allow it. “It’s an invasion of people’s privacy,” Brewer said. “Corporate would get really upset.”

While the store does have cameras, Brewer said the employees are only allowed to look at them “if there’s stealing or an accident happens in our store.” The cameras are monitored by Good Will’s corporate division, she said.

“I’m a picture person myself and I really care about people’s memories,” Brewer said. “It was really sad that we couldn’t get the camera back. We did everything we could possibly do.”

The couple does have a few snapshots from the trip captured by Wright’s cell phone. But they don’t begin to touch the hundreds of high-quality photos Saucedo took from her camera.

Saucedo and Wright are offering a reward for the safe return of their memories. “Ideally it would be for the memory card and the camera,” Saucedo said. “I would love to have that camera back. But the cost of the camera doesn’t even begin to touch the memories that are inside of it. I can get another camera. I can’t take another world trip.”

Anyone with information about the camera is asked to contact Saucedo at or Wright at 703-298-7431.

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