Wheelchair theft gets Genesee Township paraplegic man new chair, ramp and old chair returned

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GENESEE TWP, MI — Police recovered and returned the stolen wheelchair of a paraplegic man that was stolen from outside of his mobile home in Genesee Township, just in time for his birthday on Friday.
Thomas Beck, 33, a graduate of Mount Morris High School, said he first noticed the wheelchair was gone around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 2. Beck, who has been paralyzed since he was 3 days old due to complications from a heart surgery, crawled through the snow to get help from his sister, Jesica Parra, 29, who lives six doors down from his home at Benmark Place in Kearsley Lake Terrace.
Beck used the wheelchair to get to and from places like the grocery store. He has been leaving it in front of the steps to his home for more than two years.

“There were no drag marks or roll marks, so someone must have picked up the wheelchair and put it in their car and took off,” Beck said. “At first, I thought it was a practical joke. We drove around the entire park Monday and looked out on the lake. Then I decided to report it,” said Beck.

Beck’s aunt contacted Pastor Kevin O’Neal, 54, of Lennon, the founder of The Good Samaritan Network in Flint, who pledged to help Beck replace his wheelchair, even promising to get him a better one than he had in order to withstand the winter elements.

O’Neal said he began networking and contacted local media outlets in his campaign to get donations for a new wheelchair.

One of Beck’s neighbors, who had found the stolen wheelchair in his driveway, saw the story on the news and called police to retrieve the wheelchair and return it to Beck. The neighbor said he knew who stole the wheelchair. Genesee Township Police Chief John Mullaly said that the police department would seek arrest warrants for those suspected of the theft.

Local groups Vet’s Access and Hometown Heroes heard of Beck’s story and will be donating a new wheelchair to Beck. The one that was stolen is more than 10 years old, rusty and worn out.

“It’s a tragedy. It shouldn’t happen,” said Dan Corcoran of Vet’s Access. “I think (donating the wheelchair and building the ramp) is the right thing to do. We’re just trying to help people with access and getting in and out of their homes.”

Corcoran said that the groups will build a temporary ramp for Beck’s mobile home if they can’t get a building permit right away. If all goes smoothly, the construction of the ramp will begin this week.

Beck originally thought that he would not be able to leave the house this week. Now that the wheelchair has been returned, he said he looks forward to celebrating his birthday with his sister Friday, Feb. 7.

By Nicole Weddington | nwedding@mlive.com
on February 05, 2014 at 4:30 PM, updated February 06, 2014 at 9:33 AM