The group that reported a flock of fundraising flamingos stolen said they believe publicity around the theft encouraged the guilty party to return the pink plastic birds.
The story of the Catholic group's thwarted fundraising efforts was published Tuesday along with a plea for the flock's return.
Early Wednesday the flamingos were discovered stuffed in trash bags near the location they were taken from between about 9 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday of last week.
Holly Hambuchen, one of 13 raising funds to attend World Youth Day in Brazil, said she was "really excited and went straight over to pick them up" Wednesday when she got the call from Hambuchen's Home Furnishings in Conway.
Hambuchen and others "flocked" the business last week.
Flocking, Hambuchen explained, involves placing several plastic pink flamingos in a business or residential yard over night.
Flocking generates money because the individual who is flocked can then pay to have someone else flocked, or they can pay to have the group pick them up.
The group was discouraged when someone took their "top flock" of 60 birds in the middle of fundraising efforts.
St. Joseph Catholic Church's Father James Melnick said in the original article published Tuesday that the culprits would be granted immunity if the birds were returned.
"Thank you. I don't know if those are the right words to say," Melnick said Wednesday. "I'm thankful they brought them back. It says something about their character that they were man enough to return them. I am grateful."
Hambuchen said she hasn't done a "head count" but she believes the birds are all accounted for.
"We want to say thank you, and we really appreciate them bringing them back to us. They didn't have to, and we appreciate it. We can now flock more houses. Thank you," she said.
Melnick said he doesn't condone theft, but he views the theft in a positive light.
"It's another life lesson in hope. When something initially looks like it's the worst that could happen…it turns out to be the best thing that could have happened for us," he said.
The group's story was also aired on TV news stations in Arkansas and on the radio.
"We needed to raise money, but we also needed publicity. We lost about a week's worth of fundraising, but gained the whole state of Arkansas because people know about our project now," said Melnick.
To help this group raise money, contact Tessie Guillory at 501-944-0121 for flocking information.
Send donations to St. Joseph Catholic Church/ World Youth Day.