CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - An organization that specializes in providing people with disabilities with opportunities to get involved in sports said that a trailer full of wheelchairs used to play basketball was stolen sometime over the weekend.
Jayden Barrett, a director of SportAbility of Iowa, said there were about a dozen wheelchairs, all purchased through fundraising, inside the small trailer. The trailer was parked at the Stoney Point YMCA.
As Barrett drove by the parking lot Sunday morning, he expected to see what he usually sees: a white 10-foot enclosed trailer. He did a double-take, and realized it wasn't there. He's still trying wrap his head around why anyone would want what was inside.
"These chairs aren't worth anything to anybody unless they need them," Barrett said. "For them to take them, it's kind of like stealing soup from a soup kitchen, you know?"
He said the chairs themselves cost $3,000- $5,000 a piece, but their value to SportAbility's basketball team, The Iowa Chariots, is much greater. Most of the team members have little to no use of their legs, including Barrett, who suffers from a disease similar to multiple sclerosis.
"It's called NMO, neuromyelitis optica," Barrett explained. "I have limited strength, limited mobility in my legs because of that."
Barrett said the team and their exhibition games are what SportAbility are perhaps best known for.
"We base our fundraisers off of these games, we go to games and we perform at halftime in these chairs, and it's really kind of the driving force behind our organizationm," Barrett told us. "It's our way of showing people what people with disabilities are truly capable of."
Barrett hopes that the thief or thieves wanted the trailer, not what was inside.
"In all honesty, I'd say take the trailer, just give us our chairs back."
Barrett is working with Cedar Rapids Police to recover the trailer. If you see it, please contact the Cedar Rapids Police Department.
If you'd like to help SportAbility to recoup their losses, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 319-538-1805.