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article imageOhio boy receives two new wheelchairs after his was stolen

By Natty Walker     Dec 31, 2013 in Health
Cleveland - One of the most heartwarming stories from this holiday season occurred shortly before Christmas, when a young boy in desperate need of a new wheelchair was given even more than he lost.
Stephen Gibson, a nine-year-old boy from Ohio, was given two custom wheelchairs after his original wheelchair was stolen from the family garage in November. Two companies that sell healthcare products, Invacare and Miller's Rental and Sales, gave Stephen the wheelchairs for free. One is for everyday use, the other is specifically designed for wheelchair basketball.
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy and scoliosis, Stephen is in the fourth grade at Sunbeam School in Cleveland. His neon green wheelchair was stolen from the family's garage, along with nearly $200 worth of groceries that were in a freezer. The wheelchair was apparently used to cart the groceries away. When the story aired on the local news, a citywide search for the missing wheelchair began. His original wheelchair was anonymously returned, but there was serious damage. One of the wheels was bent, none of the wheels lit up like before, and the emergency brake was removed.
According to Barbara Gibson, Stephen's mother, even though the chair was damaged, he was "ecstatic" to have it back. Little did he know, though, two brand new wheelchairs were being made just for him. One has the light up wheels that Stephen adores, and the other allows him to play basketball. This video begins with Stephen happily responding "yes" when asked if he likes his new wheelchairs, along with other heartwarming moments throughout.
The two health product companies weren't the only local people to reach out to Stephen's family. Dozens of people contacted local news sources in hopes of helping the Gibsons. A lawyer offered to cover the full cost of replacing the original wheelchair, and an online fundraising drive was set up to try and raise money for Stephen's family. According to Michael Bracken, the nursing home worker that set up the drive, any extra money raised will be donated to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Stephen's school also offered to give him a temporary wheelchair to travel to and from school.
The outpouring of support was more than what was needed to replace Stephen's wheelchair. However, the two local companies donated his new wheelchairs for free. Sarah Brown, a product manager for Invacare, reached out to local media after reading the story about Stephen Gibson's ordeal. The media group that she contacted put her in touch with Barbara Gibson. The two of them arranged for Miller's to measure Stephen and order the parts, then Invacare would build and donate the two wheelchairs.
Building the new chairs was no small task. Construction spanned four factories, three countries, and two continents, according to Brown. It was especially important to make sure the wheels lit up, like Stephen's old wheelchair. Brown said, "We knew Stephen really wanted light-up casters."
Not often do you see two rival companies work together for the sake of a good deed. From the simple kindness of Invacare and Miller's, Stephen Gibson's Christmas this year was extra special. He not only got his mobility back, he also got to experience the generosity of others.
More about Ohio, Wheelchair, Cleveland, Stolen