Thieves have stolen goods that could have helped raise thousands of pounds for a hospice charity for children in the Midlands.

Helpers in two white vans had distributed thousands of bags for residents in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, to put clothes, shoes, toys and other goods in that Acorns Chidlren's Hospice could sell at its charity shops.

But after residents put the bags out on their doorsteps ready for collection on Friday, thieves in two white vans beat the charity collectors to them.

Only seven bags were left after the thieves had been round.

Acorns chief executive John Overton said the timing of the theft meant that the thieves would be able to sell the goods at Bank Holiday car boot sales. It would also have a big impact on the charity's finances.

"Our collectors say they have had hundreds of bags stolen, and that these white vans were spotted taking them," he said.

"This will have a big financial impact, as we have lost thousands of pounds in potential income. This is terrible news at a time when we are trying to help families by reopening hospice beds, having had to close 12 temporarily earlier this year due to funding problems. I wonder how these people can sleep in their beds at night."

Bogus collectors have been known to drop off leaflets or sacks through doors for clothing, ostensibly for a good cause.

Across the region Acorns has seen the number of its bags it is able to retrieve drop by more than half because of problems with theft.

Cal Jordan, whose 11-year-old son Alex is supported by Acorns Children's Hospice at Worcester, said: "It's awful. This seems to be an organised thing - someone is tipping them off when there's a collection, and they are taking the lot.

"If they could see the amount of care and work that goes into caring for these kids, could their consciences let them steal from them?"

Acorns Children's Hospice has 39 shops throughout the heart of England.