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Wheelchair stolen from Hagerstown store

Woman raises $1,000 in effort to replace it

Woman raises $1,000 in effort to replace it

December 18, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN ? The Wal-Mart surveillance images show it clearly: A young man in a black-and-white ball cap walks over to a wheelchair in the store's lobby, gets in and wheels himself out.

But it wasn't his wheelchair.

Tony Faison, 23, of Hagerstown, had left it with the store's greeter while he used a motorized cart to do some shopping early Friday.

When he returned to find his chair gone, Faison, who has spastic paraplegia, was left wondering how he would get home, let alone get around his job as a stocker at a convenience store or afford to replace the $3,000 chair that was custom-built to keep his disability from getting any worse.

Those no longer are concerns, thanks to a seemingly endless outpouring of support that began with the Hagerstown Police officer who carried Faison into his house and ended with more offers for replacement chairs than Faison knew what to do with.

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Loaner wheelchair provided, money raised

On Tuesday, after four days of having to scoot himself around on the floor and share a wheelchair with his brother, who also has the hereditary disorder, there was a knock on Faison's door. Fahrney-Keedy Home & Village, a Boonsboro retirement community, brought a motorized scooter they wanted to loan him.

Meanwhile, Crystal Anderson, an office manager at Podiatry Associates of Hagerstown, had begun collecting donations to buy a replacement.

"I heard about it on the way to work listening to Mix 95.5, and I thought, 'It really stinks that someone did that at this time of year,'" Anderson said. So she called the radio station and shared her idea for raising money to replace it.

"They kept playing it and playing it, and my phone was just ringing off the hook," she said. "Before I knew it, I had like $700 within an hour."

Doctors offices and corporations chipped in, strangers dropped by with cash, a Bob Evans waitress collected money throughout the day, and people called in and left their credit card numbers or asked if they could send checks, Anderson said. One woman whose mother had passed away offered to donate her mother's old wheelchair.

Wal-Mart offers to replace wheelchair

Chesapeake Rehab Equipment, which customized Faison's original Quickie GT UltraLight manual wheelchair, offered to replace it at cost, Anderson said.

"Then I even worked harder, because I knew I was getting close," she said.

That's when she heard there had been another offer of support: Wal-Mart announced it would buy Faison a new chair.

"We felt like it was the right thing to do," said Michael Martin, general manager of the Wal-Mart at the Centre at Hagerstown, where the chair was stolen. Martin said the store had been considering it since the incident, but it wasn't until Tuesday that he got the go-ahead from the regional vice president.

Wal-Mart previously said it wasn't responsible for items left in the lobby, Tony Faison's mother, Linda, said. She said her family has never had problems leaving wheelchairs in the lobby before, but now she wants the store to offer a more secure place to store them as a service to disabled customers.

Faison grateful for support

Martin said the store had not considered a storage area.

"It's never really been an issue, but it could be something we'd look at in the future, for sure," he said.

Anderson, who raised more than $1,000, decided to use the money to get Faison a Wal-Mart gift card. She said she was disappointed she wouldn't be able to use it as planned, but she hoped the family would be able to use the card.

Faison, who supplements his family's Social Security with his limited income, said he was grateful for the support.

"I'm overwhelmed and thankful to everybody for showing their support and helping me feel better, and getting me out of here," he said.

Police hope photos lead to suspect

Hagerstown Police Sgt. Paul Kifer is hopeful the surveillance photos will lead to information about the suspect, described as a white male in his teens or early 20s wearing a black jacket, white shirt and black jeans.

"There's a lot of crime out there, but this was one that kind of hits home with people because someone took his only means of getting around," Kifer said. "We just hope someone recognizes this guy and lets us know who he is."

Anyone with information may contact Hagerstown Police at 301-790-3700.

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