A Northland shop owner is appealing for the return of a donation box for sick children, saying it's the last thing anyone should steal.

The Kidney Kids box with about $50 cash was taken from the counter of Sushi Gallery Kerikeri, in the John Butler Centre, on Wednesday.

Owner Brian Gu said his wife Judy was cleaning the counter early that morning when she noticed something was missing. The shop's CCTV camera showed a man had strolled in at 8.10am and casually slipped the box under his hoodie.

Sushi Gallery Kerikeri owners Brian and Judy Gu say a donation box for sick children is the last thing anyone should steal. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Sushi Gallery Kerikeri owners Brian and Judy Gu say a donation box for sick children is the last thing anyone should steal. Photo / Peter de Graaf

"He just walked in, looked around for about half a second, grabbed it, looked around again and walked out."

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Mr Gu said Kidney Kids always remarked on how full his shop's donation box was, which he put down to generous customers. Tips also went straight into the box.

People had stolen drinks on other occasions but that was different.

"A lot of people have warm hearts, they want to give to Kidney Kids. That [stealing the donations] is bad."

Mr Gu posted the CCTV footage on Facebook later that day and had a huge response with several people saying they had seen the same man hanging around on nearby Cobham Rd that morning.

"If he can return it I think people will forgive him. Maybe he made a mistake, maybe he is in a desperate position, but this is the last thing to take. It is from everybody's heart. He is not a kid, he should know better."

The CCTV images shows a Caucasian man wearing a black beanie and dark blue hoodie and shorts. His shorts have the letters C.O.R.E. across the front and three white stripes on the legs.

Police have been notified and are following up information received as a result of the Facebook post.

Kidney Kids NZ chief executive Keith Mackenzie said the charity supported about 500 children and their families. When children had a chronic kidney disease it changed their lives and meant a lot of travel to Starship Hospital in Auckland.

"We very much rely on the public giving their loose change to maintain our support for the families. We do get grants as well, but for a small organisation like ours every cent counts," he said.

"It's very disappointing when this sort of thing happens. I don't know what this person will be using the funds for, but it would certainly be going to a much better cause if we could look after more children."

■ Call Kerikeri police on (09) 407 9211 if you know the man in the security camera image.