The Saskatchewan Wheelchair Sports Association (SWSA) is looking for the public’s help after a trailer carrying specialized wheelchairs was stolen from them in Saskatoon.
Energy Basketball Team Coach Joelle Buckle told 650 CKOM the 34 Quickie All-Court basketball chairs were hauled away with a trailer from the JVR Administration Centre parking lot on Cynthia Street over the weekend.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “Without those chairs we won’t be able to run the program when it starts again in September.”
The SWSA organizes wheelchair basketball programs province wide for kids with physical disabilities.
CEO Andrea Muir said along with other specialized equipment in the trailer, the total value of the loss hovers around $250,000.
“It’s of use to nobody else,” she said. “We’re just hoping someone sees the chairs ditched, or they’re returned to our office.”
If the wheelchairs aren’t found, SWSA will have to order new models from the U.S. at $4,000 per chair.
Muir said the shipping time and fittings would delay the start of their youth basketball program by at least two months, if they can find the money.
She added the chairs had been collected over time since they started the program in 2007, through fundraisers and grants from the federal and provincial governments.
“I’m more concerned for the 34 kids that sit in those chairs, that they’re not going to have a program started by this fall,” Muir said.
The trailer is a silver 2006 Royal cargo model, with the license plate 859 HDN.
Anyone with information on the theft is asked to contact Saskatoon police.
Team member ‘shocked’
Chelsea Seib, 11, said she cried in her room after finding out about the theft.
“I was really shocked,” she said.
Seib began playing a few years ago as a way to connect with her mother, the only member of her family in a wheelchair.
“I don’t understand why anyone would want the chairs, except for us,” she said. “But that’s just people, doing bad things.”
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Her mother, Heather Kuttai, took the loss of the wheelchairs hard.
“It felt like someone punched us in the gut,” she said.
“It’s a program that’s the best example of inclusion … to see that harmed is devastating.”
Kuttai noted about half the team is physically disabled.
While the search for the wheelchairs continues, the SWSA said they’ll work with their insurance company and likely start a GoFundMe campaign to cover the difference if necessary.