“What we thought was horrible turned out to be a huge blessing,” said Barrett, the program director of the group that helps provide wheelchair equipment in athletics. “Our equipment was outdated, unsafe and, now, we have brand new equipment.”
On Saturday at the Oakland Church of the Nazarene in Cedar Rapids, Barrett and SportAbility Iowa brought together donors and clients as they unveiled 20 new wheelchairs, with a total value of about $35,000. The church’s basketball floor turned out to be the setting for people to actually try them.
“We’re going to invite any donors to hop in a chair and enjoy a casual basketball game to see the equipment their money went to so they know their money is being spent the way they would want it to be,” said Barrett.
Back in December 2013, the trailer containing the wheelchairs had been taken from its parking spot at the Stoney Point YMCA in Cedar Rapids. Days later, law enforcement officers tracked the trailer to Newhall.
Only the chairs were missing or the equipment was remained inside was broken.
In the following months, Barrett said the attention from the thefts has led to this point, where enough money was raised for the new equipment.
In late April, police announced the arrest of Rick A. Smith, 39, on felony theft and criminal mischief charges. Investigators claimed to have found stolen property, including the wheelchairs, in his home and that most of the equipment was chopped up and destroyed.
“The first thought that went into my head was ‘I want to go to court with this guy and say thank you’,” said Barrett. “Everybody heard about it. Everybody heard our name and sees what we’re doing. There has been no downside to this catastrophe.”
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