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Frank Gray

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From great loss comes rich blessings

Sometimes dark clouds really do have silver linings.

Last week, we wrote about a man named Jason Garcia, who has been dealing with cerebral palsy since he was born 43 years ago.

He’s never been able to walk, and if he put braces on his legs and tried to walk with crutches, his ankles would break, he says.

But about 10 years ago he and his father pooled their money and bought him a custom-fit, all-terrain wheelchair that let him go anywhere.

Since moving to Fort Wayne from Colorado to live with his mother about a year ago, Garcia used that wheelchair to get everywhere he wanted to go – the grocery, the drugstore, downtown – and he bragged about how fast he was.

Then someone stole the wheelchair off his front porch, essentially stealing his legs, Garcia said, leaving him confined to his home, where he got about by dragging himself along the floor.

Sometimes, though, the public reacts when rotten people do rotten things to innocent folks.

Someone gave Garcia a used wheelchair, not an all-terrain model like he had, but it at least gave him some mobility.

Then numerous people showed up at Garcia’s home and offered donations to help him buy a new wheelchair. Others contributed to a fund set up at Three Rivers Federal Credit Union.

Then a local business owner who’s been in the paper a lot lately called and said he wanted to do something nice for someone, so he offered to buy Garcia a new wheelchair, another Quickie 2 – just like the one that was stolen. Yes, it would be expensive, but so what?

Within hours, a representative from a local medical supply company was at Garcia’s house taking measurements for a new custom-designed chair. It would take about three weeks to get the chair, the owner of the medical supply business said.

Then Garcia’s mother got a card in the mail. It was from Turnstone, which helps people with disabilities. Among the things it does is build ramps. Perhaps it could help.

That would be handy. Garcia’s mother doesn’t drive, so once a week his sister takes them to the grocery. But a steep hill in their front yard requires Garcia to get in his wheelchair, cut through the backyard to an alley and go around the block to get to the car.

Whether it will even be possible to build a ramp has yet to be determined, but Turnstone will investigate.

Meanwhile, Turnstone officials said, they will try to let Garcia know about other services that are available to him.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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